A Stranger Here Below #CharlesFergus

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with reviews. I’ve read so many books and written so few reviews that my head is full, my blog has been sitting empty and Netgalley and Edelweiss are wondering what’s up. Please don’t hate me as I overload your feeds with extra reviews and too many comments on your blogs as I read and write my way through all that I’ve missed.

41Ri0iutn1L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_amazonA Stranger Here Below is the first in what promises to be an intriguing historical mystery series set in early America. The series introduces us to Sheriff Gideon Stoltz, a man whose origins are Pennsylvania Dutch and who is still a bit of an outsider who speaks and acts differently from his fellow townsfolk. When the judge of the town commits suicide, Gideon cannot accept that any man would kill himself but especially not his friend, Judge Biddle. As Gideon discovers more about why the judge might have killed himself, his search for the truth becomes more dangerous to himself and those around him.

Fergus knows his history, has an incredible, intuitive feel for this region, the land and its people and it flows from each word in A Stranger Here Below. The prose is rich and atmospheric. Every detail, from the tools to the clothing, is impeccably accurate; I found myself immersed in the history of the tale and countryside. It took a bit of reading to get into the mystery itself. Perhaps it was because there was so much background needed to set to the proper stage for this era, rural Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. Perhaps it was the very simple writing as Gideon thought and spoke as any Pennsylvania Dutch would at the time. Regardless, I admit that I struggled with the slow pace in the beginning. As I grew accustomed to the writing, however, I liked the gentle flow of the words and the mystery itself began to build toward a rewarding conclusion.

This definitely is for a different type of reader, I won’t gloss over that. It’s not a thriller or suspense. It’s not a quick read or historical romance. My eighth-grade history teacher would have loved it and, most likely, she would have added it to an extra credit reading list – and I would have been the first one in line to sign up for it. If you’re a real American history fiend, then you will like this one, or, if you like slowly unfolding, atmospheric historical fiction you might enjoy it as well.

I received my copy from @Edelweiss and @SkyhorsePub

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The Moroccan Girl @CharlesCumming

I had a bit of “ooops” moment yesterday apparently. For whatever reason, this was supposed to have posted on its pub day and it did not. However, after visiting Amazon, they also are having a “glitch” with the book so it is just as well. I promise that my review did not cause the glitch despite the fact that my family is convinced that I can break all things electronically related. It’s a myth – really. It is.

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At its heart, The Moroccan Girl is more fiction/romance than spy thriller despite what you will be told otherwise. I used to read espionage books like they were going out of style. This borders on spy thriller but it is more “espionage wannabe” than the actual fact.

Kit Carradine – not to be confused at all with Keith Carradine the real-life actor – is a spy thriller writer with international fame. He is approached by MI6 to deliver a “package” to someone when he travels to Morocco for a writer’s conference. Carradine is ecstatic! He finally has an opportunity to actually do so spy work rather than just write about it. He soon realizes, though, that he has been manipulated (duh moment here) and that the request has far deeper implications than he realizes. The woman, Lara Bartok aka the Moroccan Girl, whom he is supposed to be on the look out for, is missing. She is part of a subversive, revolutionary group called “The Resurrection” who is targeting alt-right groups across the globe. As the search for Bartok continues, Carradine is unsure who and what to believe. I can’t really blame him. 

The Moroccan Girl was an extremely interesting, very fast paced thriller. It is, quite literally, ripped from today’s headlines. The part that actually involved Carradine was bit contrived – I’m not sure MI6 would involve an author in this manner – but the CIA has done stranger things than this recently so what do I know. Cumming has masterfully crafted a intriguing set of characters that are both relatable and secretive, just as good subversives should be. In all, it is a riveting spy/romance tale that will keep you thoroughly engrossed from beginning to end.

 

Love Heart Lane @ChristieBarlow @HarperImpulse #snowdays

Finally! The world outside my window resembles the sparkling snow on my blog. I was beginning to wonder if winter ever was going to arrive in the Midwestern US!

Now, with the snow gently falling and everyone snuggled around the fire, it is the perfect time to read some winter cozies and I have the perfect one for you today – Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow.

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Felicity “Flick” Simons is a bit fed up with her London retail job, more than a bit homesick for the Scottish highlands she has left behind and feeling like a loner in London despite being surrounded by throngs of people. When she receives the devastating news of her grandmother’s death, she decides that it is past time to travel home to Scotland for a few weeks no matter the reasons she left it all behind nearly a decade ago. However, her arrival home is anything except welcoming as she lands in her village in the middle of one of the worst snow storms in ages followed by a torrential rain storm that washes out the town’s bridge, cutting it off from the civilization and supplies that lie on the other side of the river. An avalanche of emotional and physical needs swarm Flick as she is forced to confront the loss of her grandmother, the closure of their family’s tea shop, the life and love she gave up so many years ago, the friends she once left behind and a village that must cope with a dwindling supply of food and coal. Can Felicity set aside her personal angst and lead her community forward? Will it be enough to save her tiny village?

Love Heart Lane is a wonderful book about community, resilience of the heart, friends and neighbors who rally together to help one another in a time of great need. While there is romance, and it is referenced often, this book is not a “rom-com” as it is billed. There is a lot of tragedy, death, and heartbreak, some of which is dealt with realistically and some of which is brushed over a little too easily – which can be somewhat expected in a cozy. However, what Love Heart Lane does have in abundance is hope and friendship and messages of second chances which, I like to believe, is something we all need to believe can be a reality for us all. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Love Heart Lane and recommend it for those who enjoy a heartwarming, cozy read. This is the first book in a series and I’m truly looking forward to the next so I can catch up with the delightful characters whom I’ve come to know and adore.

I’m grateful to @HarperImpulse, #Netgalley and #ChristieBarlow for my copy of Love Heart Lane available now.

Virgil Wander – Midwest Saturday

We have waited a decade for more beautiful, heart-wrenching tales from the incredible Leif Enger but the wait was worth it to have the astounding story of Virgil Wander 

“He had a hundred merry crinkles at his eyes and a long-haul sadness in his shoulders.”

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Virgil Wander is a sad tale about a declining rust-belt town; a town that has seen much better days as has it people. Yet the perspective changes when Virgil’s car plunges off a cliff into the icy waters below. His survival, subsequent “spidery” thoughts due to a concussion and the arrival of a mystical Swede named Rune, will offer hope and perhaps a small bit of redemption for all they meet.

Enger has given us a book of imagery, a parable of sorts, with characters that resonate and amuse the reader. They are quirky Midwesterners who have a way of making even the worst of times appear to be humorous. The book personifies goodness and evil, hope and despair in a way that only a extremely gifted writer can accomplish – and Enger is, indeed, that gifted writer.

Rarely have I loved a book as much as I have this one but then rarely does an author create a place as marvelous as Greenstone, MN or with characters who steal your heart the way that Greenstone’s residents have stolen mine. You will laugh with them, cry and hurt and, yes, rejoice with them. This is a book that will stay in your heart and mind for a very long time. My only regret is that I have only FIVE STARS to offer this book – it deserves far greater.

Thank you to the author for this enrapturing tale; to the publisher, #GroveAtlantic, and to #Edelweiss for my advanced copy of #VirgilWander.

 

Truth and Lies by #CarolineMitchell

Lies can hurt you but, sometimes, the truth hurts more. Truth and Lies is a chilling new thriller by #CarolineMitchell.

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It’s Monday and time for my latest look at Murder and Mayhem that is filling our literary shelves.

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Still reeling from her father’s untimely death, DI Amy Winters wants nothing more than to throw herself back into her police work where she can honor her father’s memory by becoming a well respected cop just like he was. However, fate deals Amy a blow when a letter arrives proclaiming that Amy is, in fact, the daughter of one of the most notorious serial killing couples Great Britain ever has known. This couple lured young teenage girls to their home, brutally murdered them and then hid their bodies. Most of these bodies were recovered but three still remain missing. The lone surviving killer, Lillian Grimes, wants to make a deal with Amy: do what Lillian asks and the bodies will be revealed. However, it soon becomes apparent that Lillian has additional plans for Amy as this old, cold case is apparently intertwined with a current kidnapping crime.

Caroline Mitchell is a former CID and her knowledge and experience are well apparent throughout the book. This is, by far, one of the best written police procedurals I have read in a long time simply because the methodology, the “cop-speak,” and protocol were perfectly realistic. In addition, the psychological aspect of both cases were fully explored and developed. We were able to see the struggles going on within Amy while also watching in horror the machinations of the very evil Lillian Grimes. It is a race against time as a young girl’s life hangs in the balance.

I haven’t read Mitchell before this book but, based on the writing of Truth and Lies, she definitely is going on my author watch list. If you enjoy police procedurals, crime novels or mysteries, then you will love this book. I highly recommend it – not to mention there is a terrific ending that will leave you wanting MORE –  ASAP.

Thanks to #Netgalley, #CarolineMitchell, #Thomas&Mercer and #AmazonPublishingUK for this terrific book!

 

Music Mondays – The River

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Music Monday is theme/meme started by The Tattoed Book Geek

I think that if I were to do this like others, I would upload a video or link to my favorite song at the moment. But, being a book geek writing a book blog, I thought I rather would share some interesting music over time that corresponds with literature. The two are so interwined that you will find book titles based on songs, songs based on books and a lot of intermarrying between the two.

This week I’m sharing a song “The River,” based on one of all time favorite authors, Flannery O’Connor.

You can read The River and other short works by O’Connor for free here:

http://www.boyd.k12.ky.us/userfiles/447/Classes/28660/A%20Good%20Man%20Is%20Hard%20To%20Find.pdf

I hope you enjoy both – have a great musical-literary week!