Book Review: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

The Cutting Season
by
Attica Locke

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I always enjoy new fiction, but I also love when I discover an excellent older book. I’m not talking about classics, but more recent books I missed when they were first published.  The Cutting Season was published in 2012 and although it’s a suspenseful murder mystery, I’d also describe it as literature with well-developed characters and themes.

Set in 2009 Louisiana on Belle Vie, a former sugar cane plantation turned tourist attraction and wedding venue, Locke tells the story of four generations connected to Belle Vie and ties together two murders, over a hundred years apart. Caren Gray, the main character, grew up on the plantation, owned by the Clancy family and where, her mother, Helen was the cook. Their family traces back to Caren’s great-great-great-grandfather, Jason, a slave worker who mysteriously disappeared in 1872. Now Caren manages Belle Vie, including a staff of re-enactors who play the roles of slaves. The grounds are limited to the land adjacent to the cane fields. Groveland Farms leases the fields and, instead of employing locals, hires immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America.

Although Belle Vie is not far from New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Caren leads an isolated life on the property where she’s raising her nine-year-old daughter, Morgan Ellis. Caren returned to Belle Vie in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina and a crumbling relationship with Morgan’s father, Eric. The couple had met during law school, but Caren was unable to finish.

The story opens when a Belle Vie maintenance worker discovers the body of Inés Avalo, a Groveland employee. Her body was found along the inside of the fence that divides Belle Vie and the leased land. Detectives immediately suspect one of the re-enactors, Donovan Isaacs, who has mysteriously disappeared.

Also at play is the Clancy family: Leland and his sons Raymond and Bobby, who fell into ownership when a Clancy ancestor acquired the plantation after the Civil War. When Leland ran Belle Vie, during which time Caren and Leland’s sons grew up, he made sure to do his part to correct the injustices against blacks. Bobby, for unknown reasons, is out of the picture and Raymond now runs Belle Vie. He’s counting on his father’s legacy to help his political aspirations.

Caren feels a complex connection to Belle Vie, as do all the people who work there. Some have family ties to the place, but the young players, including Donovan, are still learning Belle Vie’s history. She’s also uneasy around Raymond, who still reminds her of his position of authority. Bobby had always been her favorite and Caren wonders about Raymond when Bobby returns to warn her about his money-grubbing brother.

Not just a suspenseful mystery, this is a story about how an ugly period of American history fits into a modern setting and how its characters deal with their own history and its connection to slavery. Should places like Belle Vie continue to exist to educate new generations, or are they just glossy versions of a shameful period?

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For more Attica Lock, check out my review of Bluebird, Bluebird.

Book Review: Fatal Rounds by Carrie Rubin

Fatal Rounds
by
Carrie Rubin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Recent medical school graduate Liza Larkin knows something is wrong when she sees a stranger in the background of three family photos, including one from her father’s funeral. When a reverse-image search identifies Dr. Samuel Donovan, a top trauma surgeon in the Boston area, Liza switches her first-choice residency to Titus McCall Medical Center where Donovan works. Liza wants to keep an eye on this mysterious doctor and potential stalker. She can take care of herself, but she wants to protect her mother, Emily, a schizophrenic patient at nearby Home & Hearth Healing. She feels guilty about putting her mother in a psychiatric facility, but knows she could not provide adequate home-care.

Liza may be a strong woman, but she struggles with schizoid personality disorder and mourns her father, Kevin who was her best advocate. He refused to label his daughter. “You are not a list of symptoms, Liza. You are not a diagnosis. You are you, you are special,” he told her. Kevin, a rising politician, survived a shooting and immediately retired to open a food truck business, only to die from a heart attack two years later. Now Liza hears his voice in her head, guiding her decisions.

A little background information: schizoid personality disorder is not schizophrenia. It’s a condition “characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency toward a solitary or sheltered lifestyle, secretiveness, emotional coldness, detachment and apathy.” (Wikipedia) Liza has a history of defending others with violence, but regular therapy has taught her how to overcome these tendencies and become more social. Combined with long runs and vigorous boxing workouts she manages her condition and has a small circle of friends. One concerning fact: Liza has stopped her therapy.

As Liza digs into medical records, she discovers a disturbing pattern of Donovan’s patients who suffered severe trauma but died from different causes after they recovered. Donovan’s god-like image will be hard to bring down, however, and Liza may have met her match. The closer she gets to uncovering Donovan as a murderer, the more reckless and crazed she becomes.

Wow, I really enjoyed this tightly-written story, Rubin’s latest medical/psychological thriller. Rubin does a great job with Liza’s character, who is far from perfect and sometimes makes bad decisions. Readers also learn what life is like for a first-year resident and about hospital administrative hierarchies. And through often-humorous dialogue and description, one of Rubin’s trademarks, we also get to know the side characters. As in her other books, she keeps the story current, highlighting some of society’s problems such as opiate addiction, obesity, and mental illness, as well as progress in social issues such as gay marriage.

The title is a clever play on words, referring to both doctors’ rounds and a boxing match. Donovan seems to be winning the rounds, but who will win the match?

Fatal Rounds is the first in the Liza Larkin series. I’m looking forward to the next one!

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Who’s That Indie Author? J.Q. Rose

J.Q. Rose

Author Name: J.Q. Rose

Genre: Mystery, Nonfiction, Memoir

Books: Your Words, Your Life Story; Girls Succeed! Stories Behind the Careers of Successful Women; Arranging a Dream: A Memoir; Deadly Undertaking; Dangerous Sanctuary; Terror on Sunshine Boulevard; Quick Tips on Vegetable Gardening

Bio: I’ve always been a writer in my heart, but being a mom and making an income were top priorities. I taught third graders until my husband and I decided to pursue our dream of being entrepreneurs in the floral and greenhouse operation. After we sold the shop, I had time to pursue another dream, writing as we traveled full-time in our fifth-wheel camper. 

What got you started as a writer? My mom. She was my second-grade teacher. When I finished my assignment, I’d visit my classmates. My mother was not happy with me for interrupting them in getting their assignments done. She told me to stay at my desk and write stories. So I did. And I guess I never stopped.

What is your writing routine? I set aside time to write every day after lunch. Sometimes it’s research when necessary. At first, it was difficult to sit down and write instead of finishing the laundry or reading a book. Now, if I have to miss my writing time due to an appointment or a meeting, etc., I resent it.

What route did you take to get your books published? After receiving 22 rejections from publishers, I self-published an eBook on Smashwords. I thought I would pull out all my hair before I accomplished this chore in 2010. For my first mystery, I decided to find a publisher after going through the frustration of self-publishing. I queried one who turned me down. I sent the second query to a startup eBook publisher who accepted the book. The publisher said they “liked my voice.” I’ll never forget that. Now I am a hybrid author with self-published nonfiction books and with mysteries and a memoir published by a traditional publisher.

What things do you do to promote your books? Virtual book/ blog tour, book signings and presentations, social media, an author website for blogging, hosting authors and being a guest at their blogs and podcasts. Plus, I publish a quarterly newsletter.

What is your favorite genre to read and why? Historical fiction to learn about 19th and 20th-century history.

Do you prefer to write dialogue or description? I love to write dialogue when the characters banter back and forth.

Have any of your characters ever surprised you? Yes, I thought I was writing a character who was so kind and helpful until it turned out she was a manipulator only looking out for herself. Did this change the plot of your book? Yes, she did. For the best, I might add.

What is the most difficult thing you have accomplished in your life? I haven’t really accomplished the job of being a mother, but it IS the most difficult challenge I’ve ever had and can still be today! I think one is always a mother even if the kid is old enough to collect social security. Grandmothering is so much more fun…

What three events or people have most influenced how you live your life? My Grandmother, Maw, really encouraged me to be a writer. My husband, Ted, has led us on a life of adventure and worldwide experiences. My friend, Bernie, instilled in me to be the best floral designer I could be and a businesswoman of integrity.

What would you tell your younger self? Stop spinning my wheels. Realize there are times when there is nothing I can do about a situation.

Have you ever met up with a bear on a hike? If so, what did you do? If not, are you looking up what to do right now? I have never met a bear on a hike; however, I have been in places with warnings that bears are in the area and read the posted signs that say “do not run.” To follow their advice seems impossible to me. I love to see bears but from the inside of the tour bus. 

You’re locked in your local library for the night with no dinner. Thank goodness you have water, but you only have enough change to buy one item from the vending machine. Choices are limited to: Fudge Pop Tarts, Snickers or Doritos. Which would you choose and why? Snickers! What a treat to have loads of library books to read while munching a Snickers bar!

What’s the largest number of people you’ve had in your kitchen at one time? Actually helping in the kitchen? Probably 3. But sitting at the breakfast counter or standing in the way e.g. in front of the refrigerator? Probably 10.

Closing thoughts: Thank you for the opportunity to be a guest on your series, Who’s That Indie Author? To the readers, thank you for stopping in today. I look forward to reading your comments and answering questions you have about writing. Please, keep in touch via the links below.

Website and social media links: 
Blog: Focused on Story
Facebook: J. Q. Rose, Author
Amazon Author: JQ Rose


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 bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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Who’s That Indie Author? W. L. Hawkin

W. L. Hawkin

Author Name: W. L. Hawkin (Wendy)

Genre: blended mystery/suspense/fantasy/romance

Books: Hollystone Mysteries—To Charm a Killer, To Sleep with Stones, To Render a Raven, To Kill a King, and Lure River Romances—Lure: Jesse & Hawk

Bio: W. L. Hawkin writes mysterious romantic adventures from her home on Vancouver Island, Canada. Wendy graduated from Trent University with a BA in Indigenous Studies, then went on to study English literature at SFU in British Columbia, and teach high school. She found her voice publishing poetry and Native Rights articles in Canadian news magazines and is now an Indie author/publisher at Blue Haven Press.

What got you started as a writer? I started writing poetry as a teenager to make sense of my world: “It’s a maze. It’s a haze. It’s a crazy place.” But when I saw Romancing the Stone in the 1980s, I wanted to be a romance novelist. Shortly after that, I wrote the first draft of what has become my latest romantic suspense release (Lure: Jesse & Hawk).

What is your writing routine? I write when the muse is with me and then for as long as my body holds out—some days six hours if I’m on, and other days not at all.

What routes did you take to get your books published? When I first wrote To Charm a Killer, I sent it to a few agents and publishers. I had some interest, but no one wanted to commit to a first-time author who wrote blended genres. It’s hard to sell.  So, I took a chance and published it myself. By that time, I’d finished my fourth book in the Hollystone Mysteries, I’d learned the ropes.

What things do you do to promote your books? I created a solid website and keep it updated. I enter contests and do readings/sales in my local community. Last year, I started working with a publicist who booked me on all kinds of media (TV, radio, podcasts, magazines) so I became comfortable talking about myself and my work (again, not easy for an introvert). I’m now able to approach people like you, Barb, and ask.

What is your favorite genre to read and why? Mystery/suspense is my favourite, no matter what century it’s set, and that’s what I write as well. Sometimes I venture into fantasy and action/adventure. I’m a regular reviewer with the Ottawa Review of Books so receive excellent ARCs from Canadian publishers.

Do you prefer to write dialogue or description? I don’t have a preference and you need to balance both in a scene to make it dynamic.

Have any of your characters ever surprised you? Did this change the plot of your book? Absolutely, and often. Once I connect with my characters, I meditate to get into an almost trance-like space where I can see and hear what’s happening. I’ve had reviewers say my writer is “cinematic” and I think that’s why. In To Sleep with Stones, one of the characters died in a very dramatic scene and I had no idea that was going to happen. I wrote that sequence in tears, and I think that raw emotion comes through to the reader.

What is the most difficult thing you have accomplished in your life? I quit high school in grade ten. In my mid-thirties, I was compelled to finish. One of the courses was Native Ancestry 11, and I had such an epiphany with that content, I wanted to go on and take university courses in Indigenous Studies. Coincidentally, I wrote the first draft of Lure: Jesse & Hawk, my latest release during that time. My ex-husband didn’t support me, so I left my marriage and completed my B.A. as a single mother going part-time to university courses for years. That was a challenging time, but also a healing time for me.

What three events or people have most influenced how you live your life? One: reading The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell in 1990 blew open my world and taught me to follow my “bliss.” Two: leaving my marriage and taking my young daughter taught me many things about living in this world. Three: graduating from university and getting my first paying gig as a teacher gave me financial independence and a sense of moral/ethical living in a community.

What would you tell your younger self? Borrowing from my mentor, Joseph Campbell, I’d say follow your passion, your bliss, and doors will open for you. Bundle up your problems and leave them outside, then walk through that door carrying a sense of curiosity, wonder, and hope.

Have you ever met up with a bear on a hike? If so, what did you do? If not, are you looking up what to do right now? I sure have! I live in the Pacific Northwest on bear territory so regularly see them. Remember that you’re a guest on their land, back up slowly, and give them the right of way. Hawk meets up with a bear in Lure, and unfortunately, he’s unable to back up and walk away, but that’s another story.

You’re locked in your local library for the night with no dinner. Thank goodness you have water, but you only have enough change to buy one item from the vending machine. Choices are limited to: Fudge Pop Tarts, Snickers or Doritos. Which would you choose and why? Doritos by default, despite the crumbs. I can’t eat gluten or cow dairy so until they start making junk food gluten free, and chocolate out of water buffalo milk and/or pure cocoa butter, I’ll stick to my corn chips.

What’s the largest number of people you’ve had in your kitchen at one time? In my whole lifetime? Probably a dozen at my parent’s wedding anniversary.

Website and social media links:
Website: Blue Haven Press
Linktree: https://linktr.ee/wlhawkin


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 bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Book Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White
by
Wilkie Collins

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you’re looking for an excellent classic mystery, I highly recommend The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It was first published in serial form in 1859-60, in Charles Dickens’ magazine All Year Round and in Harper’s Weekly and in book form in 1860. So it’s an old book, set in Victorian England, but don’t be put off by that because the plot is so clever and varied and the characters surprisingly relevant and modern, I never felt bogged down. I should mention that the book is also very long: the print version is 720 pages.

We’ve gotten away from reading long books, don’t you think? We live in a world in which there’s too much content to absorb and talk about. I feel like it all has to be done in the fastest time possible so we can move to the next book, show, movie, song, etc. I’m just as much a victim of that mentality as everyone else, but I also feel myself shifting to a different reading attitude. When readers were first enjoying The Woman in White, they were reading it a chapter at a time and looking forward to the next installment. Just like TV shows that used to be weekly and gave us time between to look forward to what might happen next. Now everything is a binge. Okay, rant over, time to talk about the book!

Set outside and in London, the story begins with drawing instructor Walter Hartright who accepts a position to tutor two young women at their estate (Limmeridge House). Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie are half sisters and they live with Laura’s reclusive and uncle, Frederick Fairlie. The night before Walter leaves for Limmeridge House, he meets a mysterious woman in white who has escaped from an asylum. She asks him to help her and he agrees.

At Limmeridge and as predicted, Walter falls in love with the beautiful Laura and she with him, but the relationship cannot be acknowledged because Laura is betrothed to Sir Percival Glyde, an arranged marriage. Meanwhile, the mysterious woman in white, Anne Catherick, who looks a lot like Laura, is seen around Limmeridge. While that’s one of the mysteries readers will need to be patient about, we learn early on that Anne had local connections and was taken under Marian’s mother’s wing for a short period of time. Now it’s getting complicated, but wait! In a plot to get Laura’s money, Sir Percival and his closest friend, the slick-talking Count Isidor Ottavio Baldassare Fosco from Italy, concoct a scheme with shocking results. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll leave the rest out. There are plenty of twists, close calls, and dramatic scenes to keep you wanting more.

I do need to note that Marian Halcombe is one of the best and most likable characters in the story. No surprise that one of the book’s major themes is about women’s rights, as Marian is a strong woman with a smart mind. I also enjoyed Fosco’s character. You can’t trust him, but he’s extremely accommodating and pleasant and so fun to observe.

Besides being about women and their rights during the mid-1800s, the story is also about class, titles, money, inheritances, land rights, deception, suspicion of foreigners, international intrigue, love and friendship. The book begins and ends with Walter Hartright’s narration, but Collins includes substantial testimonials by Marian Halcombe, Frederick Fairlie, Fosco, solicitors, housekeepers and other minor characters. The last section reads like a detective novel and helps solve the mystery.

I highly recommend The Woman in White. If you don’t have time for the book, there are plenty of adaptations to enjoy.

Have you read this classic? Are you interested now? What’s your opinion of long books and the rush to consume content? Leave a comment.

Interested in more books by Wilkie Collins? Read my review of The Moonstone here.

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What’s That Book? Something to Hide: A Lynley Novel by Elizabeth George

Hi Everyone! Today I’d like to welcome Noelle Granger, today’s contributor to What’s That Book. Thank you, Noelle!

Title: Something to Hide: A Lynley Novel                                                  

Author: Elizabeth George

Genre: British mystery, police procedural

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

What’s it about? Elizabeth George is an American writer who sets her mysteries in Great Britain. There are eighteen books in this series and I’ve read more than half of them. Her main character is Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton, who has a massive intellect and who struggles constantly with his background. The books have followed him over the years, through his marriage and the loss of his wife and child, and his tolerance for the foibles of his co-workers.

His partner is the decidedly unattractive Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, who comes from a much lower class. Lynley and Havers clash constantly because she is short-tempered and very aware of her class, making her very difficult to work with. Winston Nkata is his Detective Constable, a very tall black African with a remarkable scar on his face who can relate to victims where Havers cannot.

George writes massive books, and I’ve heard complaints they can be used a doorstops. But despite the length, they are works of art—fiercely intelligent, stunningly researched, and always enticing. This novel concerns the practice of FGM (female genital mutilation) an underground, ritual practice in the Nigerian population of London. As usual with her books, written in third person omniscient, the story opens with vignettes of various characters that at first seem disconnected but which become increasingly entangled as the story unfolds. The central plot is the death, later deemed murder, of a black police sergeant who is investigating FGM in the Nigerian community. Lynley is assigned to the case, which has cultural associations that are completely foreign to him. As usual with George, there are a number of threads to the solution to the case, including a father’s cruel, violent insistence on subjecting his eight-year-old daughter to the practice. I kept reading on because I had no idea who the murderer was and there were plenty of candidates.

George’s character development is compelling and in this book, we learn more about Havers (who makes me want to tear my hair out) and Nakata, a gentle giant with a wonderful family. The author teaches the reader a good deal about the tribal origins of FGM and the work the British police are doing to root out its practice and stop it.

How did you hear about it? This book was on a best seller list.

Have you read other books by this author? Yes, quite a few.

What did you like about the book? The entangled plot line and the characters.

Closing comments:  I consider Elizabeth George an author in the footsteps of Dame PD James.

Contributor:  N (Noelle) A. Granger is a Professor Emerita at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. She is the author of the Rhe Brewster mystery series and the historical fiction novel, The Last Pilgrim. You can learn more about Noelle at saylingaway.wordpress.comand na-granger.com. She lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband and a Maine coon cat.


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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On YouTube: Video Review of Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Hi Everyone,

I’m trying something new and sharing this video review of Miracle Creek by Angie Kim.

If you prefer old school, you can read my review here.

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Book Review: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

Razorblade Tears
by
S.A. Cosby

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I know to be wary about books that get a lot of hype, but I fell for it this time. When I saw the critical acclaim from The New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post and many others, naming Razorblade Tears one of the best books of 2021, I wanted to read it.

In the beginning, I thought I was part of that cheering crowd, but I soon changed my mind. Here’s the premise of the book:

Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins are two ex-cons whose gay sons, Isiah and Derek (married to each other) were gunned down outside a wine shop in Richmond, Virginia. When Buddy Lee suggests they combine forces to avenge their sons’ deaths, Ike agrees.

Ike, a successful Black business owner, has kept a clean record in the fifteen years he’s been out of prison for manslaughter. And he’s kept his violent temper at bay. He needs to, especially now that he and his wife have custody of three-year-old, Arianna, Isiah and Derek’s daughter. Buddy Lee, who is white, is a career con man and an alcoholic, living in a dilapidated trailer. On top of their grief, they have many regrets about shunning their sons for their homosexuality. Now they have a chance to make things a little better.

They soon learn that Ike’s son, Isiah, a journalist, was about to expose a scandalous relationship between a woman named Tangerine and an unnamed powerful man she’d met. On the other side, this powerful person has hired a hit man and his violent gang to find Tangerine and kill her before the story gets out.

Over a period of several days, Ike and Buddy Lee chase the killers and the killers chase them. And there are many violent casualties along the way, described in graphic detail. Between the violence, they move towards friendship as they joke around and share their struggles about accepting their sons. Ike also sets Buddy Lee straight on a number of racial assumptions. I thought these were good ways to bring out the subtleties of racism, one of the better parts of the book.

I was interested in the premise, but honestly, the rest of the book just isn’t that good, with all kinds of weird metaphors and choppy sentences. Razorblade Tears is described as noir fiction, and as a reader you have to accept the violence as part of the genre, but I found the characters to be stereotypical and the fight scenes hard to follow. In addition, to say you must suspend all disbelief is a huge understatement.

In the end, I felt manipulated by the hype and in the heavy-handed message about race, gender, sexuality, and a host of other social issues. I felt this could have been a much better book if the author had focused more on the characters and had chosen one or two issues.

Other WordPress bloggers have written mixed reviews. You can check them out here.

Books with Chai
The Lesser Joke
The BiblioSanctum

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Book Club Mom’s Books of 2021

I’m a little late in sharing this, but if you’d like to see what I read in 2021, here they are!

The Searcher by Tana French – 4 stars

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn – 5 stars

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders – 3 stars

Cary Grant – A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman – 5 stars

The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce – 3 stars

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – 4 stars

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane – 4 stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – 4 stars

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – 4.5 stars

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – 4 stars

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – 5 stars

Rabbit, Run by John Updike – 5 stars

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – 3 stars

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison – 5 stars

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin – 3 stars

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – 4.5 stars

The Last Flight by Julie Clark – 3.5 stars

The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham – 4.5 stars

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth – 4 stars

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner – 3 stars

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland – 3.5 stars

The Bone Hunger by Carrie Rubin – 4.5 stars

My Brief History by Stephen Hawking – 4 stars

The Early Stories of Truman Capote – 5 stars

The Lost Man by Jane Harper – 4 stars

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – 4.5 stars

“The Casual Car Pool” by Katherine Bell – 4 stars

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – 3 stars

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – 3.5 stars

The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine – 3 stars

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet – 3.5 stars

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel – 4 stars

The Lying Room by Nicci French – 3.5 stars

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – 3 stars

The Address by Fiona Davis – 4 stars

Furious Hours by Casey Cep – 5 stars

The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford – 3.5 stars

There There by Tommy Orange – 5 stars

Elizabeth and Monty by Charles Casillo – 3.5 stars

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell – 5 stars

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – 5 stars

Defending Jacob by William Landay – 3.5 stars

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – 5 stars

Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer – 3 stars

Date with Death by Julia Chapman – 3.5 stars

The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen – 4.5 stars

If you’d like to see what I’ve read in other years, you can follow these links which are also in tabs at the top of the page:

Books of 2013

Books of 2014

Books of 2015

Books of 2016

Books of 2017

Books of 2018

Books of 2019

Books of 2020

I didn’t read as many books this year, but some of them were long ones! I feel like I’d gotten away from reading longer books, so reading these reminded me of the nice feeling of really sinking into a story like The Thorn Birds.

Stay tuned for an updated list of my all-time top reads. I went from Top 10 to Top 15 a few years ago. I’m probably going to have to up it to 20 because I read some great books in 2021. Do you have lists of all-time favorite books? What’s your number one favorite? If you don’t know by now, my all-time favorite book is Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk. That’s a long one too!

Leave a comment and tell me your favorites 🙂

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What’s That Book? Surreality by Ben Trube

Hi Everyone! Today I’d like to welcome Berthold Gambrel, today’s contributor to What’s That Book. Thank you, Berthold!

TitleSurreality

Author: Ben Trube

Genre: Mystery / Science Fiction       

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What’s it about? Detective Daniel Keenan is assigned to investigate the virtual murder of the co-founder of a massively multi-player online game, Surreality. Although the crime takes place in cyber-space, it has real-world ramifications. As Keenan pursues the culprit, things begin to escalate in deadly ways. To make matters worse, aspects of Keenan’s own past continue to haunt him as he furiously works to solve the case.

I love how the book mixes tropes of an old-fashioned noir mystery with modern day technology like computer games. Keenan and his partner Caliente are likable characters, and in a book like this, where there is a whole secondary “virtual” world in which much of the action takes place, it’s important that the reader has relatable characters to keep them grounded.

There are a number of minor characters in the book who help to fill in the details of the world of Surreality and explain how the online game was created. As in any good noir detective story, there’s intrigue, backstabbing, and even a bit of romance. In the notes, the author mentions how the book was influenced by Isaac Asimov’s classic novel The Caves of Steel in terms of mixing mystery and science-fiction, and I would say that the comparison is definitely a good one. Anyone who enjoys sci-fi or detective stories should give this a read.

How did you hear about it? I follow the author’s blog and discovered the book there. Also, although we have never met, the author and I both live in Columbus, Ohio, which is also where Surreality is set, so that made me even more interested in it.

Closing comments: I’ve read this book four times, and I think it holds up very well even knowing how it will turn out. It’s not just about how the plot unfolds. The real fun of the book is in the characters and setting.

Contributor: Berthold Gambrel is a blogger and author. You can read his blog at https://ruinedchapel.com


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.