Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Have You Heard? Blood Hollow by William Kent Krueger

I'm always grateful when Sandie Herron steps in with a review of an audiobook. It gives me one day to finish whatever I'm reading. And, she reviews audiobooks, which I don't listen to. I know many of you do, so it's one more chance for you to discover a book. Thanks, Sandie.

Cork O’Connor mystery #4
Written by William Kent Krueger, Narrated by David Chandler
Unabridged Audiobook, Listening Length: 11 hours and 15 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books (August 29, 2007)
(originally published by Atria Books, February 3, 2004)
Literary Awards:  Anthony Award for Best Novel (2005)

I thought I had adequately braced myself for the cold climate of Minnesota in Kent Krueger’s
fourth mystery featuring Cork O’Connor.  I thought I had readied myself for the many twists
and turns to come throughout this book.  However, I had not prepared myself at all for the
emotional journey on which I was about to embark.  Yet, had I given it proper thought, I
would have known Kent Krueger would not only present a mysterious problem to be solved
but also much more poignant dilemmas to be considered.

This story begins on January 2nd when Cork O’Connor, former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota
helps with search and rescue under the retiring Sheriff Wally Shanno.  On New Year’s Eve,
Charlotte Kane, daughter of widowed Dr. Fletcher Kane, took off in a snowmobile on a trail
that broke off into dozens of others.  An oncoming blizzard cut the search and rescue short
with no satisfaction.

Spring came, and Charlotte’s body was found in a snow bank.  Despite his no longer being
the sheriff, Cork often found ways to accompany law enforcement to special crime scenes or
to participate in the investigations.  The new sheriff, Arne Soderberg, was more interested in
his political career than the duties of sheriff and ran Cork off the scene, ignoring his advice.

These days Cork runs Sam’s Place, a burger stand in an old Quonset hut on the shores of Iron
Lake left to him by Sam Winter Moon.  Sam’s sister Dot comes to see Cork along with Cork’s
wife Jo, explaining that Dot’s son Solemn has disappeared and the sheriff is looking for him.
 Known for his temper and occasional disappearances, Dot isn’t worried, but the sheriff wasn’t
going to lie content and wait.  Cork knows exactly where to find Solemn, a place full of Sam’s
spirit deep in the woods.  Shortly afterward Cork and Jo, now Solemn’s attorney, accompany
Solemn to the sheriff’s station where he turns himself in.  The evidence connecting him to
Charlotte’s murder is pretty damning. The sheriff seemed to think Solemn would confess,
Perry Mason-style, but Solemn bolts and runs.

The Ojibwe have a spirituality that I often envy.  Even though Cork is only one quarter Ojibwe,
he keeps running into traditions and their ways.  He feels he’s not done right by Solemn since
Sam Winter Moon’s death, since Sam took Cork on as a youngster when Cork’s own father died.  
He feels he should have taken Solemn under his wing, so to speak, to help him complete his
growing into manhood.  So even after Solemn bolted, Cork finds him in places where Sam’s
spirit is strong.  Elder and Midewiwin Henry Meloux, member of the Grand Medicine Society,
lives on Iron Lake and helps Solemn complete giigwishimowin, the ritual where a boy is sent
into the woods to live off the land until a vision comes to him which will guide the rest of his
life.  Not until Kitchimanidoo had granted him the vision was the young man to return, changed
from boy to man.  Solemn’s quest took 16 days.  Then he was ready to face up to the white man’s
laws and prove his innocence.

Jo is not so sure she has the courage and the wisdom to represent Solemn in a criminal trial, so
she asks Cork to be her investigator.  What he discovers about the citizens of Aurora is vastly
different than what he expected when he began his search.  Cork discovers things about himself
as well that are just as difficult.  At times he has embraced and other times struggled with crises
that have spanned the series, and I believe he finally finds some crucial answers.  

Kent Krueger’s writing is lyrical.  His writing skills continue to improve.  I can smell the cut
grass or the rose petals as clearly as he describes them.  The breath in my own chest stopped
when Cork’s family was  at risk.  He has an easy flow to his words that are filled with spirituality
and teachings and lessons and miracles, and I think mostly with patience that the rightness of
the world will win in the end.  I am awed by Krueger’s talent and honored he has shared this
journey with me.  It is a very difficult journey of self discovery that begins to bring Corcoran
O’Connor the peace he has been seeking.  

Monday, January 22, 2018

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

If you're getting tired of my reviews of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London books, you'll be happy to know I only have one more after  Foxglove Summer. But, this fifth one was one of the best in the series.

Police constable Peter Grant is on his own this time. When two young girls disappear, Nightingale suggests he offer assistance to the police force in rural Herefordshire. When he talks with the parents, it seems to be a normal case of two youngsters who ran away together. Then, a friend mentions a unicorn called Princess Luna, the invisible friend of one of the girls. Or, at least she's an invisible horse-shaped friend. Unicorns exist?

Even Peter's friend, Beverley Brook, goddess of a small river in South London, doesn't believe unicorns still exist. But, there doesn't seem to be other magic, although Peter has felt as if there's something to do with trees, and a beekeeper's bees have ignored this corner of Herefordshire. His tests for magic really don't prove anything. But, when he's attacked by a unicorn, he's convinced. Fairies and unicorns and changelings. They all exist in this small corner of the country. And, the only threat that Peter can recognize is the historic Roman road that runs in a straight line through the area.

Peter Grant and the reader needed a break from London and the training in magic. In this book, he's accompanied by Beverley, but he's really on his own in coming up with ideas as to what direction to take in his investigation. Although he seems uncertain at times, he is excellent in reasoning his way through. Peter is intelligent with a dry sense of humor. It was time to set him out on his own to see what happens.

Put Peter and Beverley out in the country, away from their elders, and they become independent and capable. Foxglove Summer was one of the most enjoyable books in the series.

Ben Aaronovitch blogs at http://temporarilysignificant.blogspot.com/

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch. DAW Books, 2015. 325p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Vanishing Ireland by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury

Vanishing Ireland is a beautiful, but sobering book. Fennell and Bunbury set out across Ireland to capture and preserve the stories of ordinary Irish people, people who worked the land, worked with horses, worked on the water, celebrated the music. Vanishing Ireland by photographer James Fennell and travel writer and historian Turtle Bunbury contains wonderful close-ups of each person interviewed. But, it was first published in 2006, and even before it went to press some of these eighty and ninety year old people were dying. It's likely that almost every one of the people profiled in this book are gone by now. It's truly a story of a Vanishing Ireland.

In the introduction, Bunbury discusses the welcome they received as the people were "Plying us with tea and whiskey while they coloured in the past with their memories and mused upon the quandaries of the present." Times were hard in Ireland when these people grew up. They farmed, watched brothers and sisters move to America and Australia, lost family members to sickness and drowning. But, almost every one of them said times were better then, better than when Ireland went through the years of the Celtic Tiger. They saw their trades, mining, and raising horses, and farming, fade away. They saw the closeness of neighborhoods fade away. And, even though many of them were alone in their eighties and nineties, they still celebrated their lives and their past.

What struck me in the book is the number of men. There were only about four or five women interviewed. And, so many of the men had never married. There were entire families, five or six brothers, and none of them married. Sometimes the men had married, but outlived their wives. That didn't always come as a surprise when they talked about the twelve or thirteen children. One man showed the author "a photograph of a family reunion where he sits like Queen Victoria amid a tribe of his sixty grandchildren, twenty great-grandchildren and four great-greats."

Turtle Bunbury's words are lyrical in this book, descriptive of the land. Here's just one example. "The cottage stands in the lush Kerry landscape of Glenbeigh, sheltered by the Seefin Mountains, overlooking the point where the Behy river meets the waters of Dingle Bay. The region is highly esteemed for its folklore - the nearby strand of Rossbeigh was where Oisin and Niamh took to the sea on their white horse to find new life in Tir na nOg, the land of eternal youth." There's music in his words, and you can hear the music of the people.

Vanishing Ireland is a book for smiles and tears. I've mentioned it before. Once in a while, a book makes you nostalgic for a place and a people you never knew, and never will. But, it draws you in. It has a heart.

James Fennell's website is www.jamesfennell.com. Turtle Bunbury's website is www.turtlebunbury.com. There's also a Facebook page that salutes many of the people of Ireland, a page called Vanishing Ireland.

Vanishing Ireland by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury. Hodder Headline Ireland, 2006. ISBN 9780340922774 (hardcover), 180p.

FTC Full Disclosure - My copy was a gift.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any Occasion Life Serves Up by Elizabeth Heiskell

I was raised in Ohio. Just as in the South, when someone dies, just returns from the hospital, has problems, we take food to the house. It may not be the Southern recipes from this book, but I was eager to read Elizabeth Heiskell's cookbook, What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any Occasion.

She covers all kinds of events from potlucks (in southwestern Indiana, those are called pitch-ins) to tailgating parties to weekend getaways and bringing home the new baby. And, it's a beautifully illustrated book. Best of all, though, are the stories that go with the recipes. Because I seldom cook, I really do read cookbooks for the stories. These recipes include "Delta" food because the author lives in Rosedale, Mississippi, and grew up in Mississippi. But, a few of the recipes are similar to ones I've seen. Someday I may tell you why Heiskell's "Consomme Rice with Mushrooms" resembles our family's funeral rice.

Do you know what I liked best about Heiskell's stories? They're told with a Southern humor, and I can just hear one of my friends telling them. There is a written accent to them. For instance, when she writes about "Sausage, Egg, and Grits Souffle", she talks about trying to transport it. "The challenge comes with the 'bring it' part...It must be transported uncooked and cooked on-site. If you try to move it in your car in a Pyrex casserole dish it will slosh everywhere, and no amount of money or carpet cleaner will ever get the foul smell out of your car. You will just have to sell it."

There's an entire chapter as to what to send when a husband goes duck hunting. Heiskell's introduction to "Vegetable Beef Stew" is priceless. "There is nothing like a pot of vegetable beef stew on the stove after a long, cold day in an icy duck blind. Lord, I cannot lie to you sweet people. I have  no idea what in the world a cold day in an icy duck blind feels like.There is nothing that could drag me out of a warm bed into the dark, below-zero weather - especially not a duck. Not even a duck covered in diamonds could lure me out from under the covers of my cozy bed."

There are a few recipes I'm going to copy and try. But, if for no other reason, pick up What Can I Bring? to discover Elizabeth Heiskell's voice. She should be writing Southern fiction.

What Can I Bring? Southern Food for Any Occasion Life Serves Up by Elizabeth Heiskell. Oxmoor House, 2017. ISBN 978048754389 (hardcover), 272p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, January 19, 2018

Winners and an Amateur Sleuth Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Bury the Past is going to Marie R. from Horseheads, NY. Mary P. from Rome, NY won A Hunt in Winter. Due to our weather, the books will go out in the mail on Saturday.

This week, I'm giving away two mysteries featuring amateur sleuths. Even if you've never read one of Katherine Hall Page's Faith Fairchild mysteries, you can pick up The Body in the Casket. Faith is asked to live in for a weekend when a director/producer of musicals holds a reunion of the people involved in his last show, a flop. Yes, she's going to cater it, but he wants her to use her detecting skills. He's convinced someone is planning to kill him.

Or, you could enter to win the first in a series, Nancy J. Parra's A Case of Syrah, Syrah. It's a Wine Country Mystery. Taylor O'Brian plans to capitalize on her aunt's local winery, and offer "Off the Beaten Path" Wine Country Tours. But, the murder of a local businesswoman on Taylor's first tour means her business is in jeopardy. And, it won't matter if Taylor's in prison for murder.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read either "Win The Body in the Casket" or "Win A Case of Syrah, Syrah." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, Jan. 25 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

What Are You Reading?

First, I want to thank Jeff, Grace, Margie and Glen for sharing their favorite books of 2017. Let's do it
again next year! Watch for those good books this year.

I bet it doesn't come as a surprise to anyone that I'm finishing Foxglove Summer, the next book in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series. I like this better than the last one. Peter Grant is on his own this time, as he travels out of London to help when two young girls go missing. Well, he isn't really on his own. He's with one of the river goddesses, Beverley.

What are you reading this week? The focus is all on you this week! Let's talk about books.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

While Broken Homes isn't my favorite in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series, the ending came as surprise. And, it was perfect.

Peter Grant is a police constable with a little bit of magic. He and a former classmate, Lesley May, reside at the Folly with their instructor, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale. It's there that they continue their lessons while fighting against those who use magic and the supernatural for evil purposes. Peter calls one of those the "Faceless Man", and they've been hunting him since Peter first ran into him.

This time, the small group travel all over the countryside as they investigate a case that could have a connection to the Faceless Man. Eventually, they end up in a confrontation with a Russian woman, who like Nightingale, seems to be aging backwards. She, too, had been active in World War II, using her magic skills.

But, it's one building, what we would call the projects, and the book refers to as an estate, the infamous Skygarden Estate, that draws Grant and Lesley. They move in, searching for someone with a connection to magic or to the "Faceless Man". And, they find more than they expected, a dryad, river goddesses, fae, and others who hear what's going on in the building. Peter also makes connections with residents of the neighborhood, while keeping his occupation a secret. It's only at a climatic scene that he's forced to reveal his identity.

As I said, Broken Homes isn't my favorite book. There's a little too much German, a little too much discussion of architecture. But, the resolution will come as a shock to anyone who has been following the series. On the other hand, as I said, it was an appropriate, perfect ending. It will be fascinating to see where Aaronovitch goes from here.

Ben Aaronovitch's blog is at http://temporarilysignificant.blogspot.com

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch. DAW Books, 2014. 326p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book