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review 2017-12-18 05:38
How the Finch Stole Christmas (Meg Langslow mystery, #22)
How the Finch Stole Christmas! - Donna Andrews

I'm an unrepentant fan of this series, but I got about half way through this book and sort of resigned myself to a good read, but not a great read.  Admittedly, to my way of thinking Duck the Halls is a pretty hard book to beat in terms of holiday spirit and humour, as well as a solid mystery.  

 

The mystery in this one is, it pains me to admit, weak.  The lady doth protest too much, sort of, and it made the culprit feel obvious.  But I suspect that if you got Andrews drunk, she might admit that the mystery wasn't the point of this story.  The series has always been about the characters, and to a lesser degree, about animals, but How the Finch Stole Christmas is almost all about the animals.  The front flap leads a reader to think it's about the town's holiday play of A Christmas Carol and the shenanigans of the lead actor, but from the beginning the story really revolves around

 

an exotic animal smuggling ring, and a puppy mill that Meg stumbles across while tailing her lead actor, trying to figure out where he was getting his booze.

 

This is where the finches in the title come into play, and at least one of them plays a much larger role towards the end of the book. 

 

So the book was good, but not great.  Until the very end.  And Andrews' managed to get me in the feels.  I'm not sure how, because the scene isn't one I'd normally be moved by, so credit has to go to her writing, I think.  No matter the reason, I found myself a little misty eyed as I finished, and once again feeling like she'd given me exactly what I was looking for: a Christmas mystery full of Christmas spirit.

 

By the way, this book works PERFECTLY for the Bodhi day square: Book themes for Bodhi Day:  Read a book which involves animal rescue.  (Buddhism calls for a vegetarian lifestyle.)  I, however, am counting it towards Book themes for Saint Lucia's Day: Read a book where ice and snow are an important feature.  -- A snow storm and impending deep freeze causes all sorts of havoc with rescues, murder victims, and suspects and is the primary complication in the plotting of the mystery.

 

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text 2017-12-18 03:01
My Quest for the Yeti
My Quest for the Yeti: Confronting the Himalayas' Deepest Mystery - Reinhold Messner

A bit of background: Reinhold Messner is, as you may know, a famous, record-breaking mountaineer. He was the first to climb Everest without supplemental oxygen, he was the first to climb all of the 14 eight-thousanders, and many other incredible feats. However, in the mid-to-late 1980s, he became the target of much mockery when the media picked up an interview in which he apparently claimed to have seen a yeti (which is not what happened, as this book explains). 

 

When I first saw the book, I must admit that I rolled my eyes. I looked at the title and thought "Oh, dear. Here we go - it's the story of Reinhold and his Yeti." Still I was intrigued, and now I am glad to have read it, because it is not what I expected.

 

While it is about Messner's encounter with an unidentified creature, he does not claim the creature to be a yeti. The book actually takes a look at the myth of the yeti while investigating what the creature he saw might have been. He also looks at why the story made the headlines and how the mis-reported interview caused a rather cycnical reception.

Why this skepticism? The answer is simple enough: explorers and discoverers see what they want to see. Like all of us, they perceive reality through their own preconceptions.

Messner's descriptions of his trekking and travelling in Tibet is phenomenal. He clearly loves the place and has a lot of respect for its land, people, and culture. His knowledge of the area is remarkable, and he comes across a fairly grounded person - except when he thought his girlfriend left him stranded in Lhasa. 

 

He visits many different areas and interviews locals about the yeti myth. His conclusion is that the yeti exists only as a myth, but that the creature he encountered was likely a rare Himalayan bear.

 

This book was published in 1998. Since the time of the precarious interview with an Indian newspaper in 1986, Messner had been subjected to quite harsh ridicule, and his credibility as a writer and mountaineer really suffered. 

Considering this undeserved treatment and considering that Messner's theory of a rare bear as the origin of the yeti myth, it has been satisfying and delightful to learn that the scientific community now (in the last month or so as I am writing this) seems to consider Messner's idea as a valid explanation. Well done that man!

 

Still, even with the latest articles supporting Messner's ideas, it is still worth reading this book. Messner's writing in parts is absolutely gripping as he avoids being arrested by the Chinese police, or as he walks across Tibet by himself with nothing but a backpack and a sleeping bag (not tent). 

 

The other part that I found really gripping was the part where he described his observations of the Chinese regime in Tibet. He gives some background to the political situation of his visits at the time that the book is referring to but he also adds his first hand experiences.

As I have learnt from this (and his Everest book), he doesn't hold back and he doesn't seem to embellish, which makes the paragraphs on Tibet quite a decent work of journalism (in any case much better than what I encountered in Forensics recently, not that this is a high bar to set). 

 

This is from a visit in 1988:

 

"One day, I was in the middle of Parkor when suddenly plain-clothes policemen carrying guns and radios went running past me. The Tibetans scattered in panic; an old woman next to me began crying, and a distraught cripple, who had been cringing by the roadside, dragged himself into the nearest doorway. A truck blocked the way of the fleeing crowds; tear gas was in the air. Six young lamas who had been carrying a banner proclaiming "Free Tibet!" were hauled into a truck, which raced off, sirens blaring. Columns of soldiers marched in; then came trucks and more soldiers, their clean olive-green uniforms clashing starkly with the Tibetans' dirty rags."

Not long after this scene, the Chinese government closed Tibet to foreign journalist as the number of protests in Tibet increased. Incidentally, this prevented Messner from being able to conduct more research into the yeti myth for a number of years. 

For clarity, Messner's concern in the book is not for the disruption to his project for the welfare of the people in Tibet. Not that he spends much time on political issues, but, as I mentioned earlier, he has a very high regard for the country and its people. 

I found Messner's writing about Tibet absolutely riveting. In many ways, I could not help comparing it to Heinrich Harrer's book Seven Years in Tibet, which is an equally riveting story. Both books show their authors concerns for the country, and though they have been written in different times, they shared a common outlook.  

"The Chinese paid no attention to tourists, and the Tibetans seemed preoccupied with mumbling their prayers, as they had done for centuries. Traditionally, prayers were written on strips of paper, then rolled into cylinders and stuffed into containers the size of a fist. These were set in motion by a swipe of the hand; a weight revolving around a metallic rod in the middle of the cylinder kept it spinning. Once a Tibetan symbol of faith, these prayer mills were becoming increasingly rare, and the paintings of gods on rocks were fading. But the mumbling continued. Most Tibetans are indifferent to the rise in living standards brought about by China's rule. Spiritual life is dying out, and they have nothing to counter this with except their mumbling."

As far as books go, this was one of the most surprising reads this year, and I love that the books has changed my own preconceptions of the author. 

 

 

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review 2017-12-18 00:14
THE WIFE BETWEEN US BY: GREER HENDRICKS & SARAH PEKKANEN
The Wife Between Us - Greer Hendricks,Sarah Pekkanen
Well, I feel like the blurb totally called it. 
 
"When you read this book, you will make many assumptions."
 
 
 
I had a lot of assumptions at the beginning of this book, and only one thing turned out to be true. Which I kinda can't tell you, because it would spoil all the fun. I even heeded the warning like blurb. I went into this one totally suspicious of EVERYONE. In the end I think that actually made this whole story even more fun. I was juggling at least 4 different theories on what was ACTUALLY happening, and none of those was what it ended up being. This was one hell of a plot twist and I imagine it is going to knock a lot of socks off! It surely got me! 
 
 
Part one was a little slower going, but still interesting getting a thorough examination of the characters and a glimpse at their relationships. It painted a really full foundation in your mind that is inevitably rocked down to its core in part two. I feel like the full picture at the end of the book was much more comprehensive because of it. The last half of the book is unputdownable. Once everything starts to shift it is nearly impossible to put down until the very end. And the authors have more than one surprise up their sleeves in this tale, so this is the book that just keeps on giving. 
 
 
I really enjoyed The Wife Between Us, I hear it will be coming to the big screen too and I am looking forward to watching that when it comes out. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more from these authors. 
 
Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for an ARC of this book! 
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review 2017-12-17 16:47
Mississippi Blood
Mississippi Blood: A Novel (Natchez Burning) - Greg Iles

By: Greg Iles

Natchez Burning #3

ISBN: 9780062311153

Publisher:  William Morrow

Publication Date: 3/21/2017 

Format:  Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars +++

 

The 30 Best Books of 2017

EPIC! 10 stars — Secrets of Mississipi’s violent past and a KKK group called Double Eagles are revealed. At the heart, the big question: Who killed Viola Turner?

Natchez Burning The first installment in an epic trilogy that weaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present into a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage, whose quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past. Top Books of 2014 

The Bone Tree In this second volume, Penn is caught in the darkest maelstrom of his life, as he fights his way out of the war he unwittingly started with a violent offshoot of the KKK, the Double Eagles, and continues to hunt for the truth about dark deeds from the 1960s. Top Books of 2015 

MISSISSIPPI BLOOD The endgame is at hand for Penn, his family, and the enemies working to destroy them. Featuring a trial scene that Publishers Weekly calls “among the most exciting ever written in the genre,” this novel delivers the shocking resolution Greg Iles’s fans have eagerly awaited.Top Books of 2017

The King of Southern Fiction, Greg Iles returns with his highly anticipated Natchez Burning trilogy, with his finale: MISSISSIPPI BLOOD – where we pick up following the murder of Viola Turner and the high profile trial of Dr. Tom Cage. 

The Penn family is in crisis. Sins of the past still haunt the present. 

Greg Iles is a master Southern storyteller and no one can compare! Skillfully crafted, a brilliant mix of Southern, historic, crime thriller, suspense, and classic literary fiction at its finest. He uncovers the moral outrage of racism, corruption, and hatred which has been a part of our history and still exists today- years after the Civil Rights era. 

“Mississippi blood is different. It’s got some river in it. Delta soil, turpentine, asbestos, cotton poison. But there’s strength in it, too. Strength that’s been beaten but not broke.” ― Greg Iles, Mississippi Blood 

 


Picking up from The Bone Tree, the Mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, former Houston prosecutor, and novelist Penn Cage is still grieving the loss of his fiancée Caitlin Masters. He still wonders if ghosts exist. He spends time visiting graves. Henry Sexton is dead. Caitlin is dead. Annie’s mother is gone —cancer took her to her death. 

Presently, Penn is dealing with his dad’s upcoming murder trial. Local physician, Thomas J. Cage is being held in protective custody in Louisiana by the FBI for the murder of Viola Turner, his former black nurse, and mistress. He was not even allowed to attend Caitlin’s funeral. Penn has not spoken to his dad, Tom since Caitlin’s death. 

The case has drawn national attention. Dr. Cage is accused of murdering his former 65-year-old black nurse in the wake of a pact that would have required him to euthanize the terminally ill woman who had been his employee thirty-eight years earlier.

In the final stages of lung cancer, she had returned to Natchez to die from Chicago. Being Cage is white and Nurse Turner was black, also complicated matters. In addition, it was recently revealed she had a child (Lincoln Turner) by Dr. Cage in 1968 while he was married. She was a widow at the time after her husband had been killed in the Vietnam War. 

Assisted suicide? Or if administers the drugs, it is murder. A mercy killing? He was charged with first-degree murder.

However, what really happened that night? Did he administer drugs, or when he left, who came in next? Did Viola inject herself or something more sinister at play? A botched injection? A heart attack? An overdose or the wrong drug? So many questions and few answers. 

What about the Double Eagles? Are they to blame? They have a history. Viola’s family wants justice. Lincoln set the investigation in motion. Does he have his own agenda? 

There is John Kaiser of the FBI. Cage is being held in protective custody because he is a material witness in a major federal investigation and his life is in danger. He is being represented by African-American civil rights attorney Quentin Avery of Jefferson County, Mississippi, and Washington, DC. 

Dr. Cage is keeping quiet. Avery his African American attorney in a wheelchair cannot discuss his case with Penn. What does Snake have to do with Viola’s murder? A recording of that night? Who are they protecting? 

The civil rights era of the 1960s remains present. Viola Turner’s brother (a civil rights activist) was murdered by the Double Eagle in 1968. She was also raped repeatedly by the same group and the KKK. Upon returning to Natchez, this brought fear to the group. They want her dead. They had warned her. 

Penn’s family is still under attack by Snake Knox and Double Eagles and the FBI cannot be counted on to protect them even though they live surrounded by bodyguards. Penn is raising his 11-yr. old daughter, Annie and his mom is staying near the prison in a motel, so he brings in the babysitter, Mia who has worked with them previously. His mom wants him to forgive his Dad enough to visit him in prison. 

However, if his father had not hidden the truth of what inspired on the night Viola Turner died, Caitlin would never have become obsessed with Henry Sexton’s quest or picked up his torch after he martyred himself to save them, or followed a bloody trail to the abomination called The Bone Tree. She would be alive. They would be together in Edelweiss, their dream home with Annie and well on their way to a child together. 

Penn’s work is suffering, and he is questioning his own sanity. Who is Quinton trying to protect? His family has imploded. 

His father had two sons and one of them was doomed to be an orphan. The happiness of his childhood was bought with the pain of a black boy who had hurt no one. He had a brother and long after his father passes his blood will flow through both their veins.

. . . “A man who has known love and grief and understands that one is the price of the other.”

 



An upstanding physician and friend to many. A man, not perfect. Dr. Cage is self-destructing and has every puzzled. Penn’s half-brother, Lincoln Turner, is hell-bent on destroying the Cages. Race relations, violence, corruption, evil, and those with hatred. Even though Lincoln and Penn have the same blood running through them, they grew up differently. 

To Lincoln, he had nothing growing up and Penn had it all. They are opposites. When Penn was striving for a baseball championship, with a highly respected physician and mother, Lincoln was scrapping in the streets and running from the Chicago PD. His stepfather was in and out of prison or gambling away his wife’s salary. 

All along while Penn was moving from a successful legal career to an author of legal thrillers, Lincoln was slaving in a small firm, chasing small-time cases until he was finally busted for embezzling escrow funds from a client trust fund. Doing so in a desperate attempt to save his stepfather (which he thought was his father), from a long prison term and had his license suspended. 

Penn can only image Lincoln’s rage. Now his mother is dead, and he wants someone to pay. Justice. Payback. Lincoln is the living symbol of his father’s sin. Perhaps, his crime. After all, it was Lincoln who set in motion the murder investigation. And now Lincoln haunts his city, his family like some dark, retributive spirit. 

Yet, Penn is resilient. Family and friendships are important. He must find a way to help. He can only hope that Lincoln can free himself from the lies that shrouded his youth and become what Viola dreamed he would be. A man who embodies the best of both his parents. 

Can the two brothers join forces and work together to solve this horrible wrong, to find the truth and attain justice for both father and mother? Time is running out for Dr. Cage. Unless Penn is successful at exposing the past to exonerate his father, his family will be destroyed. 

“ . . .Right meant more than might; that being faithful and good meant more than being rich; that honor superseded all.” 

Readers are introduced to a new character, Serenity Butler,(love her), a famous writer (light-skinned African American), and former army officer who steps in to tackle the Double Eagles. The beautiful and talented writer in Atlanta, from Mississippi originally. He cannot trust anyone, even his mother. However, he joins up with a young black author and former soldier named who has come to Natchez to write about Dr. Cage’s case. She may be his best ally. To help expose the dark secrets. 

Formed in the 1960s, the group’s mission is terrorizing and murdering African-Americans, and they are still at it today. The Double Eagles have reasons to want Viola Turner dead, and if their involvement can be proved, it will save Tom. Penn has to find a way. 

Heartwrenching, raw, emotional, complex, intelligent – Penn Cage desperately wants to believe in his father, the family martyr. The decisions his dad makes have terrible consequences for the entire family. Penn is tested. He wants to believe in truth and justice, but his beliefs and values are threatened and shaken to the core. 

No one can rest until the last of the Knoxes have been jailed, and the Double Eagles smashed for all time. 

Rich in Southern history, –From crusading journalists, racism, half-brothers, old lovers, old grudges, corruption, blacks-whites, fathers/sons, sons/mothers, strong family ties, protecting others, revenge, power, justice, and survival – Iles is at the top of his game with this extraordinary trilogy. 

Superb character development, action-packed with page-turning suspense —bringing the saga to a satisfying conclusion. While at the same time exposing the ugliness, cruelty and shameful episodes of our past. Unfortunately, not only does it exist in the American South - it is widespread. 

In 2011 the author was badly injured in an automobile accident and almost died, losing his right leg below the knee. Afterwards, he chose to go deeper with the story about family, race, prejudice, and secrets. His work is commendable! 

Of course, we fans are delighted with the news: Sony Pictures TV is developing a cable series based on the books, with producers Tobey Maguire and David Hudgins (a Dallas native) and director John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”) attached. Can't wait! Let's hope they film it where it all took place, due to the author being an expert. Would not have the same impact, filmed elsewhere. 

If you have reviewed Iles' website you know (house/office) property is for rent in Mississippi, due to the steps. One of these days, my wish is to visit and experience the journey, while touring the places and landmarks in the book. Enjoyed reviewing The Map. 

“Mississippi Blood” is the capstone to what could legitimately be called a magnum opus. Iles has emerged from an excruciating ordeal to create a superb entertainment that is a work of power, distinction and high seriousness. These are angry novels, filled with a sense of deeply-considered moral outrage. They are also prime examples of what the thriller— and other forms of “genre” fiction — can accomplish when pushed beyond traditional limits. 

Often grim and frequently horrifying, these Natchez Burning novels set their larger historical concerns against the credibly detailed backdrop of a family in crisis. As the Cage family endures its own trial by fire, Iles shows us both the weaknesses and strength of people tested by extreme circumstances and by secrets and lies that have festered for too long. In successfully illuminating both the inner life of a family in peril and “the troubled borderland between black and white,” he has created something memorable and true.” – Washington Post



Well said. 

As always, with Greg Iles books in this series, you need to experience MISSISSIPPI BLOOD in all formats. The audiobook is a must (narrated by Scott Brick) for an amazing performance (have listened several times). Then of course, you "must" purchase the Kindle format in order to highlight the beautiful lyrics; and last but not least, the print copy is a given, to add to your personal library collection. 

USA Today: Greg Iles has his first-ever No. 1 USA TODAY best seller with Mississippi Blood the final book in his searing Natchez Burning trilogy. 

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/09/08/Mississippi-Blood
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review 2017-12-17 16:28
My Quest for the Yeti
My Quest for the Yeti: Confronting the Himalayas' Deepest Mystery - Reinhold Messner

I admit it: I went into this book thinking that Reinhold Messners narrative about seeing the yeti in the Himalaya would be the rambling of a madmen. But this book took me by surprise. 

 

Following his encounter with a strange and foreign creature, Messner digs into the yeti myth and tries to explore the meaning behind this myth to give a possible explanation for it. Could it be an animal that lies behind the origin of the elusive yeti?

 

First off, there is nothing madmen like about this book. Messner establishes a theory which isn´t preposterous or ridiculous, yet everyone back in the late 80s and early 90s treated him like he was a nut job:

 

"Go back to your yeti!" shouted an old man as he passed me on the street in the town where I live in Austria. My daughter Magdalena was with me. "Why do people yell at you about the yeti?" she asked me solemnly.

"I don´t know," I replied, "maybe they don´t like what I say about it."

"But it´s none of their business!" she exclaimed, still upset.

"Yes, it is. The yeti belongs to anyone who has heard of it, and no one wants to give up the picture they have in their head. Everyone sees it their own way."

"The real yeti couldn´t care less, right?"

"Absolutely right. The yeti is really thick-skinned. He has no idea that half the world is thinking about him," I said as we drove him.

 

Messner attitude and the way he deals with vicious people and stupid journalists is pretty great and even though he sometimes comes across as a very rude guy in interviews (at least I perceive him as such), he seems to be a down to earth guy. He says things that very well could be true, but no one is actually listening to him and thus he became "the crazy guy, who has suffered from altitude sickness and, during a hallucination, saw a yeti".   

 

Besides his personal experiences Messner looks at the different theories surrounding the yeti and its possible link to a type of bear called chemo, he explores the connection between the Nazis and the yeti myth and he gives an insight into the strained history of Tibet.

 

The whole book was a fascinating read and I really enjoyed reading this book. Thank you BrokenTune, for suggesting the buddy read. I would never have picked this book up without you.

 

And I can count this book towards the 16 tasks of the festive season, which is awesome.

 

Book themes for Bodhi Day: Read a book set in Nepal, India or Tibet, –OR– which involves animal rescue. (Buddhism calls for a vegetarian lifestyle.)

 

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