Devolution – Max Brooks

On April 1, 1969 the Board of Commissioners of Skamania County, Washington State, adopted an ordinance for the protection of sasquatch/bigfoot creatures (Ordinance No.69-01)

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No, don’t walk away because you think you know what this book is about. You don’t. I read it in all of my smugness, assuming it was going to be silly. After all – Big Foot. How seriously can you take a book about Big Foot!? Very. That’s how much! Because, Devolution really is about so much more than the creature you see skulking around in the movies and in strange commercials. It’s about American society and our fascination with technology, nature and introspection. It’s about ourselves.

Greenloop is meant to be a new urban model society. Set in the mountains of Washington, in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, it is a utopian society for a very select group of people who can contribute to the communal “green” society. The community is wholly self sustaining except for their One-Touch food delivery system brought to them by drones.  Their energy is solar and and waste-based. They have everything they need. They are “green” to gills and relish their very pro-nature, pro-animal, environmental lifestyle. Until Mt. Rainier decides to re-establish itself as the volcano that it is, cutting them off from the grid and from the rest of civilization. It also has cut off the rest of the animal kingdom from civilization. What happens from there is a tale that only Max Brooks could conceive.

The story is told from multiple perspectives – a journal kept by one of the residents, interviews with her brother who is searching for her, a companion guide to Sasquatch, and interviews with a park ranger who has been searching for survivors after the volcano. This method, its interlocking uses of back and forth data, make the story far more realistic than it otherwise might have been. There were times I found myself trying to verify sources before I had to remind myself that there was no eruption on Mt. Rainier. It really is written that realistically.

What further sets this book apart from other “monster horrors” is the character development. We are able to watch as characters are introduced, morph into leaders, fall apart under pressure, die, survive or not. This is the real backbone of Devolution. I would read it over and over again just to catch the nuances of these changes once more. They are brilliantly written. That isn’t to say that the book is without flaws because they are there. There were moments in the chapter segues that I thought Brooks was preaching and doing so about topics that were unrelated to the topics within the book. Hannah’s memoirs from the IDF were completely unnecessary. Others, however, were spot on so I tend to overlook the minor flaws in order to enjoy the greater perks of the book.

Do I believe in Big Foot after reading Devolution? Naaaahhh, wellll, not really. But I certainly won’t be found camping in Washington State anytime in this lifetime.

NOTE: I read this book during COVID and found such striking similarities between the Greenloop residents and those here in the US. Panic set in early regarding the lack of  food that would last more than a few days, undomesticated animals took over areas rather quickly from bears to wild cats to coyotes and foxes. Our technology and supply chains showed their weaknesses within one week. It was so apparent that “city dwellers” are ill equipped to survive any type of crisis which made Devolution all the more believable.

Because You’re Mine by Rea Frey

Never for one moment did I envision how this book would end – never.

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Because You’re Mine is the intriguing story of the interwoven lives of three people and one charming young boy who is on the spectrum. Mom, Lee, who works her butt off to provide a loving, comfortable and safe home for her son, Mason. His tutor, Noah, for whom Lee has a growing interest but tries to quell it in order not to upset Mason’s routine and Grace, the dutiful and caring friend. The story is told from each of their perspectives and we get glimpses into each of their lives, thoughts and concerns but primarily it all revolves around Lee and Mason. When Grace convinces Lee to get away for a weekend with two other friends, leaving Mason in Noah’s care, it seems that Lee finally will get some much needed time for herself. However, as the weekend progresses, secrets are revealed and only three of the friends come away alive. Sounds familiar, right? Wrong! Because You’re Mine is a unique twist on this theme and it is one that I’m sure you find interesting.

#Netgalley #BecauseYou’reMine

Death at High Tide: An Island Sisters Mystery, Book 1 – Welcome to #MurderousMondays

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After so many noir reads, I needed a lighthearted mystery to keep me company. Death at High Tide was exactly right for good night’s read. Plus, I love reading the first book in a new series, don’t you?

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Cats, Corpses and Creepy old inns set the stage for this delightful cozy from Hannah Dennison. When Evie’s older husband dies of a heart attack, Evie is devastated. Her sister flies in from America to help Evie sort out the paperwork only to find that Robert, the husband, was hiding one secret after another, including the deed to an old inn on a often deserted island. Evie and her sister decide to check out the inn only discover hidden agendas, hidden secrets and a vicar who talks to animals!

Seriously, as strange as the description may sound, Death at High Tide checked all of the boxes for a wonderful cozy mystery. Evie and her sister make the perfect amateur sleuths despite the fact that I wanted to slap Margot, the sister, every other page. The characters are all properly suspicious and the deaths continue to mount until the very end of the tale. It was all rather wonderful! Because it was the first in a new series, I had hoped to have a better connection with the sisters than I did, but perhaps that was more me than the writing. Despite that tiny worry, Death at High Tide is a perfect cozy mystery that will keep you engaged from beginning to end!

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #MinotaurBooks and the author, Hannah Dennison, for my copy of this fun tale.

 

Cut to the Bone by Ellison Cooper

A cop and a teenage girl are dead, the girl found lying inside a circle of animal figurines below a cryptic message written in blood. She is one of twenty-four missing high school students, all science proteges who are now gone. Agent Sayer Altair is called in to investigate and soon she discovers a dark, twisted tie to her own past. It is now a race against time to save the remaining the students.

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When I was first offered Cut to the Bone, I never had heard of the author, Ellison Cooper. After reading this book, the third in the series, I immediately went back and purchased the first two to read. Yes, the series is that good! Let me first tell you about the author. Ellison Cooper has a Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA, with a background in archaeology, cultural neuroscience, ancient religion, colonialism, and human rights. She has conducted fieldwork in Central America, West Africa, Micronesia, and Western Europe. She has worked as a murder investigator in Washington DC, and is a certified K9 Search and Rescue Federal Disaster Worker. I tell you this because she brings every bit of that extensive knowledge into her writing. I was fact checking various things she had written left and right and finally quit because it was pointless. She’s brilliant. Her writing is brilliant. While the story line is fiction, the knowledge is real and it is fascinating! However, it isn’t just the intelligent writing that I loved – her characters are fantastic. They are real. They are quirky. They are full-bodied, not ever what you expect and ever evolving, growing and changing with every book, just as you would expect your friends to be in real life. I loved – and hated – them all!

I read this series completely out of order as I could get the books but if you want to fully enjoy them I would suggest reading them order but I truly do encourage you to read this series. It’s fantastic!

Thank you to  @ecooperauthor #MinotaurBooks and #Edelweiss for my copy of this amazing book!

Kent State – Fifty Years Later

Today is the 50th anniversary of Kent State when the US Government shot and killed American college students. It is important to remember as we talk about how horrible China is, that the US has done unspeakable horrors of their own – IS doing unspeakable horrors of their own.

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The students at Kent State were protesting a war that never should have been, a draft that was avoided by the rich and white, like Donald Trump. Today we have another tyrant in the White House, one who is encouraging mad men with guns to protest against their own state governments who are trying to protect them. The US has gone mad and it is getting worse with the lies coming straight from the mouth of the US President. Sadly, American citizens have not learned that the US government, the FEDERAL government, is not and never has been a friend of the people – unless you are one of the few, white, billionaires and I seriously doubt that you are.

If you would like to read more about the era leading up and including Kent State, I highly recommend the wonderful book, The Fourteenth of September by Rita Dragonette.

Blog Tour – Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

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I admit that I joined the Robyn Carr fan party late having only just started reading her this year, but I’m so glad that I discovered her writing at last! Like many, I started watching the Virgin River series and then went back to read the books. Now I’m branching out to her other collections and, wow, there are many! Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is Carr’s latest book published this month and it is fantastic. I stopped reading one of her other books so that I could read this one because I love the area of Half Moon Bay, California. The book was calling to me!

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Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is a tale of two sisters born twenty years apart. I thought my own kids, born five years apart, had a lot of years between them but twenty is an entire generation! Needless to say, the sisters had very little, if anything, in common. Addie, the younger sister, dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents while Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement for all concerned but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both sisters. With a future filled with uncertainty and change, the two will need to find a way to come together to solve both of their problems and, perhaps, to find love along the way.

I have found that Carr is a master at creating characters that the reader will care about and relate to. Both sisters, although light years away from my own lifestyle or concerns, still resonated with me. The challenges they were facing were those that many of us will face at some point in our lives. I also found the secondary characters to be a tad bit more interesting than the sisters themselves and I hope that in future books we will see them again.

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is well written women’s fiction and perfect for Carr’s fans as well as new readers to this genre, especially those who are new to Carr after watching Virgin River.

Carr_Robyn_11_ColRobyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including highly praised women’s fiction such as Four Friends and The View From Alameda Island and the critically acclaimed Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan’s Crossing series. Virgin River is now a Netflix Original series. Robyn lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit her website at www.RobynCarr.com.

 

 

 

 

One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak

Imagine swabbing your cheek for 23andme and discovering that you have two half sisters that you never knew existed. That is what happened to Serenity when she took a DNA test for research for book she was writing. One sister had grown up in foster care, one was the only daughter of a single mother and Serenity was part of an intact family with both parents and more siblings. The sisters aren’t sure how they fit together but decide to spend a few weeks together getting to know one another, hoping that during that time they will also discover something in their past that they have in common. Little did the sisters know that the weeks would turn into a summer that would change their lives forever.

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I’ve never read a book by Brenda Novak and the pace and style took time for me to get used to. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be “chick lit” or “light romance’ or exactly which genre I was reading until, finally, I stopped worrying about it and just enjoyed the story. The sisters were similar enough, despite their upbringing, to become good friends and an encouragement to one another through a very difficult series of revelations. There were hints of romance throughout which kept the story interesting and light. There also was the underlying mystery of how the three girls had the same father by such totally different mothers.

There were times I felt the book had some believability issues, such as a hospital sending home an amputee without follow up rehab, therapy or the ability to use cutlery in his “good hand.,” but despite these moments, the over-arcing storyline was enjoyable and would make for a nice summer read.

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Little Secrets!? How about BIG BIG LIES! That would be my suggestion for the title of this “can’t put down” thriller!

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Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier was not even close to what I was expecting! The blurb suggests the book is about college sweethearts whose marriage is falling apart after their son is abducted. I thought perhaps it would be an abduction story – and that was a secondary part of the tale. But wow – oh wow – the rest of the book is SO MUCH MORE. There is a lot happening in this book. Are all of her books like this!? I don’t know, I haven’t read them but I will, I WILL!! There are little secrets, BIG LIES, cheating spouses, people you will hate, no one you will love, and everyone running around one another trying to keep their lies a secret. Naturally it doesn’t work but will finding the truth help them to find the child!? Oh My Gosh, who knows!? Well, you will – if you read this fantastic thriller.

 

The Familiar Dark #AmyEngel @aengelwrites

Everyone is a suspect.

Everyone has something to hide.

And someone will answer for her daughter’s murder.

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It has been a while since I’ve written about Southern Noir and I’ve missed it especially after reading the perfect book for this collection, The Familiar Dark.

Eve Taggert was raised on the wrong side of the tracks – far, far away from those tracks, in a trailer with a drug using/selling mother. Things didn’t get a lot worse than Eve’s home life. Her family had the reputation of being the worst of the very worst. Now, as adults, Eve has moved into town and has a daughter whom she adores. Her brother is a respectable cop. Eve lives entirely for her daughter, Junie, and is completely devastated when Junie and her best friend is found murdered in the park. In any other town in America, Junie’s death would be considered reprehensible but in this dirty backwoods Ozark town, it’s just another day in America. That is why Eve has vowed to find the killer herself, even if it means reverting to her mother’s brand of vigilante justice.

Let me just write a few WOWs here! WOW! Oh WOW! Seriously WOW!! Because I am stubborn, I didn’t read the first book by Engel, The Roanoke Girls, which was all the buzz a few years ago. That’s because I’m really stupid!! Amy Engel is a southern author to be reckoned with whose flair for noir puts Nordic authors to shame! From the opening lines, which perfectly capture the last horrifying dying moments of the two girls, to the volatile and satisfying ending, there is not one moment of The Familiar Dark that is not brilliantly written. Every.Single.Word. The characters are raw, gritty, dirty, corrupt and corruptible. Even the richest in this town are grimy and you know it, you feel it. Those of us who ever have lived in the Ozarks know towns exactly like this one. We’ve known people like Eve and her family and Engel skillfully brings the town and these people off of the pages and into our reality with a flourish of her pen-stroke.

I’m not going to elaborate on the plot, I’m simply going to say that if you have not read The Familiar Dark yet, I have no idea what you are waiting for. Go. Get it right now and start reading it today and, if you haven’t read The Roanoke Girls, then make sure you get that one as well, because of course I had to go back and read that one too!

The Familiar Dark gets all the stars all the way up to the highest Ozark Mountaintop! WOW!