I don’t think so.

So true!

Wandering Bark Books

Image courtesy of stockphotosforfree.com Image courtesy of stockphotosforfree.com

On the way home yesterday, I heard an NPR story about how a computer program at MIT has apparently learned how to “help” an MIT media lab student “compose” a sonnet using a database of Shakespeare’s works.

Including only words used by Shakespeare, the program suggests words that The Bard might have used in “that situation,” or, when writing a sonnet.

The transcript clarifies: “It was [Mathias’] sonnet confined to authentic Shakespearean language. It’s the same predictive software we see when our devices try to finish our sentences and suggest the next word.” Great, so a new application of technology.

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Exile by Denise Mina

Just finished Denise Mina’s , Exile, book 2 in the Garnethill Trilogy.  I did enjoy book 1, Garnethill, however this book was much better!  Maureen’s character is in a self-destructive post-traumatic stress downward spiral fueled mainly by alcohol.  She is investigating a murder at the request of her friend Leslie, who is not much less of a mess.  A woman has been brutally tortured and murdered with her body dumped.  She was recently a resident at a battered woman’s shelter, so all fingers point toward the husband, Jimmy, who is the only surviving parent for their 4 small boys.  Only things are not what they seem and Maureen through her alcohol induced haze and her desire to maintain her friendship with Leslie seeks to prove that Jimmy didn’t kill his wife.

The characters are what makes this work stand out.  Denise Mina has crafted incredibly human characters with all the dirt and despair that one could stand to read.   Maureen is a walking train wreck, yet in this book she comes across as more intelligent, not just crafty in the way of many street survivors, but also analytical.  Jimmy is a portrait of despair and a born victim.  Even Winnie, in her own alcohol fueled rages, is a fully developed character.

Liam and Vik are some of the only positive characters in the book.  Liam has made great strides to pull himself out of his past.  Vik is strong enough to insist that he deserves to be treated right by Maureen.  There are still differences between these two:  Liam wants to save or protect Maureen, while Vik wants her to save herself.  After the ending of this book, I will be interested to see what happens here.

The mystery is well done  with great twists and turns and an ending that I did not see coming.  There is a great sense of place in this book, even though most of the places are nowhere the reader would want to be.

Great read!  I can’t wait to read the third one.

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

I should begin by saying that I have read all of the books so far in the Ruth Galloway series.  I truly love this series, it is one of my favorites.  I have been eagerly awaiting this, book 6, in the series.  And it was fine, but for some reason, just fine.

The characters of Ruth, Cathbad, and DI Harry Nelson are excellent as usual. The reader can see growth in these characters, within themselves and their relationships with each other and other characters.  The mystery still involves a background of archaeology, but certainly not to the extent of earlier books.  The plot is  a little overly crowded with characters and story lines.  It involves the discovery of an executed Victorian “child killer’s” body, a TV crew anxious for a high profile story, a child’d death and mother’s suicide, and  current child abductions.  Ruth is right in the middle of all of it, from discovering the body, to being involved in the TV program, and investigating the abductions.

This book, The Outcast Dead, was more about relationships, particularly the relationship between parent and child, Mother Hook and her “children”, Ruth, DI Nelson and Kate, Judy, Cathbad, and Michael, among others.  Children are involved in every plot line, in every conceivable way.  This seems to have occurred at the expense of the archaeological aspects, the mystery, and for me very importantly, the setting.  I missed that mood that the setting of these books usually evokes.  It was just not here in the this outing.

I will continue on with this series and see where it goes from here.  I am hoping the next book returns more to the feel and style of the early books.

As a side note, there are several references to early books, so I think this would be best read as part of the series, not a stand-alone.

 

As the Crow Flies by Damien Boyd & Uncommon Grounds by Sandra Balzo

crow  grounds

Sitting home with a leg in a cast has at least let me do some reading!  Both of these were this month’s selections from book clubs.

As the Crow Flies is the selection for the Kindle English Mystery Club on Goodreads for the month of April.  This is the first book in which we meet DI Dixon.  DI Dixon has relocated from a more prestigious posting to a small outpost, much to the dismay of his family and the confusion of his new colleagues.  DI Dixon is a former rock climber and rock climbing is the back drop for this thriller.

Dixon is called to investigate a death of a former rock climbing partner, Jake, by Jake’s parents. The opening scene of the book is actually Jake’s death in a tremendous fall.   The first few paragraphs worried me a little because of all the climbing jargon.  I wondered if I would be able to read it, but it was pretty easy to catch on to and the pace of the book swept me along.

The mystery takes a few twists and turns and several probable theories of the crime are put forth.  Dixon is an intelligent sleuth, who manages to be smarter than most of those around him but does not come across as arrogant about it.  As a reader, I can understand his family’s dismay at his apparently throwing away his shot at a more promising career for life in “the slow lane”.  On the way to solving the main mystery, Jake’s death, there are other cases that may or may not be connected and that Dixon tackles proving his worth as a sleuth.

Very fast paced mystery making for a quick read. It definitely kept me turning the pages.  My only critique is that the book is too short, I got to the end too quickly.  However, better a little  short than stuffed with unneeded filler.

Uncommon Grounds is the selection for the Cozy Mystery Corner Group on Goodreads.  This is the first in a cozy series based around a coffee shop.  Maggy Thompson, partner in a coffee shop venture to the murder victim Patricia Harper, takes her turn as a sleuth to solve Patricia’s death.

I read another coffee shop based mystery, Cleo Coyle’s Coffee House Mystery series and could not help making comparisons between the two. Unfortunately  Uncommon Grounds comes out the loser in this comparison. Maggy is no Clare Cosi.  In fact, Maggy seems to have entered into a business venture with someone she knows very little about or is just woefully uninformed and didn’t care to investigate.  Wouldn’t the fact that your new business partner was the member of some cult like church be of concern to the average person?

I will just leave it with this book didn’t work for me.

Ankle Injury :)

cast

My lovely purple cast (which for some unaccountable reason looks blue in the pictures) is all in aid of getting my ligaments to knit back together…hmmm.

So, anyway rolled my ankle about 3 weeks ago taking out the trash and I do mean rolled, as in leg and foot made a 90 degree angle on the ground.  Used an old Ace bandage and limped around because it was a really bad time to be out of work.  Then, about  a week ago, just as it was feeling slightly better, I stepped on a piece of uneven sidewalk and rolled it again.  Got through the week at work and then went to Foot and Ankle doctor and ended up with my purple cast.

Next week, we hope to cut it off and move on to a boot instead. All this has led to a stoppage in running and working out in general.  Anyway, at least it happened now so that hopefully by the middle of May I can start running again 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride

  Just finished Cold Granite from Stuart MacBride.  I picked it up on offer for my Kindle one month when another Stuart MacBride book, Birthdays for the Dead was the monthly read.

This is book one in the Logan McRae series.  DS McRae has just returned to work after a year off.  He gets swept up into a case(s) involving murdered and assaulted children.  He is just trying to find his footing again, with a new partner of sorts, WPC Watson (as an aside, he is attracted to her but this is not a romance).  This is a police procedural and thriller first and foremost.

Well written and staffed with characters who have depth to them, complex motivations and histories. The reader sees DS McRae’s doubts, his fears that he is not up to the job yet, his insecurity in working with a new DI, and his conflicted feelings about his ex, Isobel, the pathologist.  His ability to deal with all of this and then the gruesome details of the crimes and the criminals makes him a great protagonist. McRae is methodical, a thinking man’s sleuth.  He makes connections between the cases and sees where there are no connections.  It makes for very engaging reading.

There are more than the average number of twists and turns built into the mystery plot here.  Everytime you think you have it solved, another curveball comes out of the blue and McRae leads you charging off in a new direction.  In the end, all the plots are untangled and all the loose ends are tied.

This was my first outing with Stuart MacBride and I am so glad that I was introduced to his writing by the Kindle English Mystery Club.  I will certainly read more by this author!

 

 

 

Inherit the Word by Daryl Wood Gerber & Garnethill by Denise Mina

garnethill inherit

 

I had been waiting for some time for the second outing in the “A Cookbook Nook Mystery” series and it does not disappoint.  Jenna Hart, the protagonist, is still working at her Cookbook shop, hosting a community grill off event, grieving for her “dead” husband and, of course, sleuthing.

The mystery revolves around a murder at the competition and involves many recurring characters from book one.  After a rocky start in book one, Jenna and Cinnamon, the local Police Chief, have a tentative new friendship.  The Mayor Zeller returns again in this book and features prominently in it.  Many of the other locals are included as well.

The characters are interesting and many of them seem like people you could know in real life.  There are lots of possible culprits to choose from and the plot takes the reader through many twists and turns.  The mystery plot is two-fold, the current murder mystery and a continuing plot from book one about David, Jenna’s dead (maybe missing??) husband.  I am eager to read the next in this series.

Garnethill is a book that was chosen as a group read for my Kindle English Mystery Book Club on Goodreads.  I have never read anything by this author, Denise Mina before this book.

Garnethill is about an incest survivor who wakes up and finds her married boyfriend murdered in her living room.  She was institutionalized briefly in the past and the book is as much about her attempt to hold onto her sanity as it is solving the murder.

The positives about this book are that it has a well done mystery, with enough characters to keep you guessing and twists and turns throughout the plot.  The pacing is good and it kept me turning the pages in a race to get to the end.  The setting is particularly well done, in description and in setting the mood of the book.  It has a well developed sense of place as the reader follows Maureen to institutions, her family home, the police station, and day centers.

I found the portrayal of Maureen O’Donnell, incest survivor, mental health patient, and adult child of an alcoholic to be extraordinarily perceptive and full of the nuances necessary to make it real.  Maureen is a study in contradictions, doubting herself and unable to trust others. Distrustful of authority figures, morally “flexible” – yet with a sense of right and wrong, intelligent yet with no ambition, craving independence yet feeling lonely…all of the things that come from being violated as a child and not having your emotional needs met in childhood.  This is the best part of the book for me.

The main negative that I could find about this book is the portrayal of the police.  It is a very stereotypical, cartoon-like characterization.  It seemed we were supposed to side with Maureen in the interviews, but I could definitely see the police’s perspective.  The body is found in her flat.  Her behavior is odd, to say the least, she lied time and again (and got caught), and she came across as manipulative or even criminal.  This part of the book is not up to the standards of the rest of the book.  It seems like an adolescent take on authority – they are authority figures, hence they must be bad/incompetent/uncaring.

A final word to the wise, as I was not aware of this when I read the book, it is book one in a trilogy, so there are some things left unresolved.  The good thing is that there was enough great stuff here that I will probably read the next two books anyway.