#AudioBookReview: Glory Be by Danielle Arceneaux

#AudioBookReview: Glory Be by Danielle ArceneauxGlory Be (Glory Broussard Mystery, #1) by Danielle Arceneaux
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Format: audiobook
Source: supplied by the publisher via Spotify
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Glory Broussard Mystery #1
Pages: 272
Length: 8 hours and 47 minutes
Published by Pegasus Crime, Spotify on October 3, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

The first in a vivid and charming crime series set in the Louisiana bayou, introducing the hilariously uncensored amateur sleuth Glory Broussard. Perfect for fans of Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club.
It’s a hot and sticky Sunday in Lafayette, Louisiana, and Glory has settled into her usual after-church routine, meeting gamblers at the local coffee shop, where she works as a small-time bookie. Sitting at her corner table, Glory hears that her best friend—a nun beloved by the community—has been found dead in her apartment.
When police declare the mysterious death a suicide, Glory is convinced that there must be more to the story. With her reluctant daughter—who has troubles of her own—in tow, Glory launches a shadow investigation into Lafayette’s oil tycoons, church gossips, a rumored voodoo priestess, nosey neighbors, and longtime ne'er-do wells.
As a Black woman of a certain age who grew up in a segregated Louisiana, Glory is used to being minimized and overlooked. But she’s determined to make her presence known as the case leads her deep into a web of intrigue she never realized Lafayette could harbor.
Danielle Arcenaux’s riveting debut brings forth an unforgettable character that will charm and delight crime fans everywhere and leave them hungry for her next adventure.

My Review:

Like most amateur detectives, Glory Broussard begins her first investigation because it’s personal. Her best friend is dead, and the police have ruled that death a suicide. A decision that Glory refuses to believe.

Glory had known Amity Gay since they were little girls in pinafores, and for all the 60-some-odd years of their lives that followed. Glory knew Amita Gay as well as she knew herself, and her friend was looking forward to life, not running away from it.

And through bitter experience, Glory is all too aware that the police, in Louisiana and elsewhere but perhaps especially in Louisiana, discount and disregard the deaths of black people in general and black women in particular.

Because that’s the way it always has been, and in spite of changes on the surface, that’s the way it still is.

So Glory, amateur detective, professional busybody and successful bookmaker (yes, I mean gambling and not bookkeeping) does a bit of surreptitious reconnaissance in her late friend’s apartment and discovers a whole lot of paperwork about a chemical plant that the big company in Lafayette wants to construct right next to a poor black town so they can make even more money and spread more cancer – not necessarily in that order to Glory’s cynical mind.

While the police might have left the paperwork behind because it wasn’t an actual part of the crime scene, Glory knows they didn’t search at all because she found a box of fentanyl-laced lollipops in the back of Amity Gay’s closet. Something that would definitely have been found and confiscated in even a cursory search.

Which means that obviously no search was done, that the police are rushing to judgment because its easier for them – and possibly for the big company with those chemical plant plans.

Glory will just have to nose her way around Amity Gay’s old friends, Glory’s own new enemies and figure out which of the possible parties and motives is responsible for the death of her best friend.

The last thing Glory needs to add to her already overwhelming to-do list is figuring out what her daughter, a successful New York City attorney, is doing back in Lafayette, minding Glory’s business and cleaning up her house. Or, for that matter, figuring out what has the city all fired-up to condemn her house.

Or even, heaven forbid, whether or not her dearest friend, a professed Catholic nun, had been doing something unholy. Again.

Escape Rating B: Glory Broussard does not hold back. Ever. Not within the confines of her own head as she tells this story, and not out loud, either. She’s certainly an acquired taste for her friends and neighbors, and quite possibly for the reader as well.

Glory does not suffer fools, neither does she let said fool out of her sight without telling them that she thinks they are one. Sometimes in great detail. In other words, Glory is a lot, and not exactly universally beloved – or even respected.

To the point where it’s easy to understand why her daughter, successful New York City attorney Delphine, wishes she could get her mother to just shut up now and again, especially when faced with city officials who want to condemn Glory’s house. Not that Glory doesn’t get the best of that situation – along with a whole lot else – in the end.

But part of Glory’s charm, and certainly part of the charm of the story as a whole, is Glory’s bone-deep authenticity. It’s certainly not Glory’s honesty, because she doesn’t seem to have an honest bone in her body – not even in reference to herself and the depression she has sunk into over the years.

What does ring true, particularly in audio, is the relationship between Glory and Delphine, that ‘roses and thorns’ kind of love that can exist between mothers and their adult daughters. Part of both the compulsion to finish this mystery and the difficulty of doing so for this reader is that I heard the echo of every single argument I had with my own mother in the exchanges between Glory and Delphine. That roses and thorns observation was heartbreaking because it felt so very true.

But the story, the mystery, and the eventual, hard-won mutual respect that arises between mother and daughter, follows Glory’s stubborn pig-headedness from something that everyone told her should be left well enough alone to a conclusion she almost wishes she’d never uncovered.

She’s left with the realization that too many of the people she believed in have feet of clay up to the knees. And to console herself, in the end, that justice has been done, along with the new lease on life that becoming an amateur detective has brought her.

Readers, on the other hand, can console themselves with the fact that Glory will be back on the case in another mystery this coming fall!

TLC

TLC tour schedule:

Thursday, February 15th: @booksandthemes

Friday, February 16th: @naesreadingnook

Friday, February 16th: @booksandcoffeemx

Saturday, February 17th: @bookitqueen

Sunday, February 18th: @laura_cover_stories

Monday, February 19th: @idreamofthelibrary

Tuesday, February 20th: @books_and_biewers

Wednesday, February 21st: @simplyreadwithv

Thursday, February 22nd: @booksnbikram

Friday, February 23rd: Reading Reality and @reading_reality

Saturday, February 24th: @spaceonthebookcase

Saturday, February 24th: @thereadingchemist

Sunday, February 25th: @kristis_literary_corner

Monday, February 26th: @karen_runwrightreads

Monday, February 26th: @sometimesrobinreads on TikTok

Tuesday, February 27th: @paperbacksandsketchbooks

Wednesday, February 28th: @readthisandsteep

Thursday, February 29th: @djreadsbooks

Grade A #BookReview: The Lantern’s Dance by Laurie R. King

Grade A #BookReview: The Lantern’s Dance by Laurie R. KingThe Lantern's Dance (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, #18) by Laurie R. King
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss, supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery
Series: Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #18
Pages: 300
Published by Bantam on February 13, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, hoping for a respite in the French countryside, are instead caught up in a case that turns both bewildering and intensely personal.
After their recent adventures in Transylvania, Russell and Holmes look forward to spending time with Holmes' son, the famous artist Damian Adler, and his family. But when they arrive at Damian’s house, they discover that the Adlers have fled from a mysterious threat.
Holmes rushes after Damian while Russell, slowed down by a recent injury, stays behind to search the empty house. In Damian’s studio, she discovers four crates packed with memorabilia related to Holmes’ grand-uncle, the artist Horace Vernet. It’s an odd mix of treasures and clutter, including a tarnished silver lamp with a rotating an antique yet sophisticated form of zoetrope, fitted with strips of paper whose images dance with the lantern’s spin.
In the same crate is an old journal written in a nearly impenetrable code. Intrigued, Russell sets about deciphering the intricate cryptograph, slowly realizing that each entry is built around an image—the first of which is a child, bundled into a carriage by an abductor, watching her mother recede from view.
Russell is troubled, then entranced, but each entry she decodes brings more questions. Who is the young woman who created this elaborate puzzle? What does she have to do with Damian, or the Vernets—or the threat hovering over the house?
The secrets of the past appear to be reaching into the present. And it seems increasingly urgent that Russell figure out how the journal and lantern are related to Damian—and possibly to Sherlock Holmes himself.
Could there be things about his own history that even the master detective does not perceive?

My Review:

As Holmes himself once said, “Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms,” but as this 18th book in the continuing chronicles of Sherlock Holmes and his apprentice-turned-wife Mary Russell opens, Holmes is considerably more worried about the form that blood might take spilled from his son’s veins on the floor of the French cottage where Holmes adult son, Damien Adler, his young daughter Estelle and his wife-to-be Dr. Aileen Henning have set up house and home in Damien’s inheritance from his mother Irene Adler.

Someone, a man Adler described as a ‘lascar’ broke into his home in the middle of the night, kukri in hand, to do who knows what damage or cause who knows what type of mayhem.

Adler does his best to convince himself it was all a prank gone wrong. But Holmes, with too many enemies still lurking in his shady past and even his more circumspect present, is not nearly so sanguine about the whole thing. There are, after all, plenty of criminals who would like to put the squeeze on Sherlock Holmes by threatening his son and his granddaughter, and most likely even more powers and potentates who would be interested in having some leverage against that puller of the British Empire’s strings and minder of its webs, Mycroft Holmes, by kidnapping his nephew and great-niece.

Holmes’ primary concern, desire and dilemma, all in one gordian knot of emotions he is reluctant in the extreme to untangle, is to get Damien, Aileen and Estelle somewhere safe so that he can run the meager clues about the break in and its elusive perpetrator to ground. Possibly to put them in that ground if necessary.

Damien wants to continue his work as an up-and-coming surrealist artist – AND he wants his father to explain what the hell is going on. In other words, Damien Adler wants to be treated as the adult he is as well as protect his family.

While Russell is, at least at the outset, a bit of a ‘fifth wheel’ in this family drama of which she is more of an appendage that a central part. Unfortunately for her, an appendage with a sprained ankle, hobbling around on crutches, in the house where her predecessor, the famous and famously beautiful Irene Adler, once ruled. If her ankle wasn’t already making her miserable enough, this entire situation has more than enough undercurrents to discomfit even Russell.

So the dust on the initial break in settles with Damien in Paris, Holmes following behind to check for traps, tagalongs and any possible gathering of confederates, while Russell is left behind in Irene Adler’s old house, going through the detritus of codes long left unbroken and old family secrets. Only to discover that the reason for the break in has been hidden in plain sight, and that too many of the truths that Sherlock Holmes has believed all his life were lies all along.

And that more of that art in the blood that his son received in full measure from his mother’s well-known artistic family bore other, more mysterious fruit much closer to its source.

Escape Rating A: This one begins slowly, as Russell languishes – a bit – alone in the countryside while Holmes hares off to Paris and points beyond. At first, it felt like the story was creeping along, much as Russell is doing with her crutches. But Russell’s temporary infirmity forces her to sit still – something that chafes at her no end.

But that stillness – and the lack of ability to rush about after Holmes – forces her to take the time to explore her briefly confined circumstances. And thereby, quite literally, hangs this tale.

Also, and fascinatingly so, as Russell’s leg gets better, as she graduates from crutches to a cane to walking unaided, as she picks up her pace the story increases its pace in tandem. By the time she is able to unravel all of the mysteries, she is searching Paris on foot, chasing down leads and putting the pieces together at her – and her story’s – usual brisk pace.

So initially, while Holmes is the active partner and Russell is stuck in place, he’s actually spinning his wheels, trying to safeguard someone who refuses to obey orders, looking over his shoulder at every moment, and always operating at an information deficit as he’s forced to react to circumstances rather than think first and then act.

Russell has that luxury. She’s stuck, she has time to think, and plenty to think about. While Holmes and the rest of the family are running, she’s questioning the locals and exploring the house, where she finds clues that lead her to the true heart of the mystery – and to its bittersweet conclusion.

In the end, I did love this entry in the series, although it took me a bit to get there because of that slow start. But now that I’ve finished, I’m left with the impression that this is more of a family story than it is the kind of mystery that has more often been featured in this series, and in the Holmes canon and Russell Kanon in general. On this, the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – the story where Russell nearly tripped over Holmes on the Sussex Downs – it feels right that we go back to, not their beginning, but rather to Holmes’ own beginning, and get a much clearer picture of where he came from and the forces that made him – and Mycroft for that matter – the men they became.

In other words, The Lantern’s Dance feels like a story that will be utterly riveting for fans of the series, but would not make a good place for a newcomer to start. If you have not yet had the pleasure of Mary Russell’s acquaintance, I highly recommend that you begin at the beginning, with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and settle in for a long and delightful read.

A- #BookReview: The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai, translated by Jesse Kirkwood

A- #BookReview: The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai, translated by Jesse KirkwoodThe Kamogawa Food Detectives (The Kamogawa Food Detectives, #1) by Hisashi Kashiwai, Jesse Kirkwood
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, foodie fiction
Series: Kamogawa Food Detectives #1
Pages: 208
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on February 13, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

The Kamogawa Food Detectives is the first book in the bestselling, mouth-watering Japanese series for fans of Before the Coffee Gets Cold.
What’s the one dish you’d do anything to taste just one more time?
Down a quiet backstreet in Kyoto exists a very special restaurant. Run by Koishi Kamogawa and her father Nagare, the Kamogawa Diner serves up deliciously extravagant meals. But that’s not the main reason customers stop by . . .
The father-daughter duo are ‘food detectives’. Through ingenious investigations, they are able to recreate dishes from a person’s treasured memories – dishes that may well hold the keys to their forgotten past and future happiness. The restaurant of lost recipes provides a link to vanished moments, creating a present full of possibility.
A bestseller in Japan, The Kamogawa Food Detectives is a celebration of good company and the power of a delicious meal.

My Review: 

“We find your food” is all the advertisement that the Kamogawa Diner – and the office of the Kamogawa Food Detectives located in the back of the tiny restaurant – either needs or wants.

Because that combination of slogan, motto and raison d’être says all that this father-daughter duo needs to say, either about the food they serve or the unique service they provide.

Taste and smell are inextricably linked to memory in ways that we all know, but are hard to articulate. It’s why the right perfume is so evocative, and why dishes we loved when we were children evoke such powerful memories.

Nagare Kamogawa and his adult daughter Koishi own, operate and investigate the dishes served at their diner. When someone comes in needing their special services, Koishi asks the questions and her father, a police detective turned masterchef, provides the answers in the form of a dish that brings back the memory that their client has been chasing down so hard, to no avail. At least until now.

The stories in this delightful little collection are the stories of their clients, each with a particular sharp need for something like closure of a loss that happened yesterday or long ago. They are pursuing a chance to commune one more time with someone they lost, someone they left behind, or someone they need to let go of.

Each comes to the diner with a vague memory of a time, a place, a person, and a dish upon which it all hangs together in a faded memory. Through recreating the dish, the Kamogawa Food Detectives give their clients one more chance to reconcile, or mourn, the person in that memory, whether it’s someone they lost or merely a part of themselves they left behind.

Like the cuisine that is mouth-wateringly described in each and every story, the memories are, for the most part, not sweet unless that sweetness is tinged with the bitterness of loss. Rather, each story is one to be savored, as is this whole, entirely delicious, slice of life at the home of the Kamogawa Food Detectives.

Escape Rating A-: This was absolutely the right book at the right time. In spite of being a loosely linked collection of short stories, it hung together MUCH better than yesterday’s book, to the point where I finished this little volume in one – admittedly hungry – sitting. At the end, my only negative thought about the book was that it wasn’t nearly enough.

Don’t go into this one hungry, because the descriptions of the food are every bit as tantalizing as the stories are savory – even the ones that describe something that might not be to one’s own taste. If these dishes are half as good as the descriptions in the book make them, I’d be willing to try them all.

I also couldn’t help but think of similar dishes, not in cuisine but in my own memory. Dishes that my grandmother made that neither my mother nor I were ever able to replicate. Love and nostalgia are seasonings that are difficult to duplicate, no matter how many times one has tried. (If you’re wondering, I can replicate my favorite dishes that my mother made. But my grandmother’s, no.)

I want to say this was sweet but based on the utterly tantalizing descriptions of the food, it would be more accurate to say that this was wonderfully umami, in other words, marvelously savory and absolutely delicious.

This is, honestly, a book that kind of defies description. You have to be there, within its magic, to get the full flavor of just how lovely it is. All I can say is that it is absolutely, delightfully, worth the read.

Speaking of magic, however, if the taste of The Kamogawa Food Detectives is as appealing to you as it was to me, if you would like to try something similar with a more overt hint of magic (I say more overt because it could easily be claimed that what these food detectives do IS magic) you might want to try The Nameless Detective by Tao Wong. The Kamogawa Food Detectives is also frequently cited as a readalike for Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Which I have not read YET, but certainly plan to in the months ahead.

The above recommendations will hopefully tide you over until your next delicious visit to The Kamogawa Food Detectives. This book is the first in a series of seven in the original Japanese, and the second book, The Restaurant of Lost Recipes, will be published in English in October.

I’m already salivating for another taste!

#BookReview: Village in the Dark by Iris Yamashita

#BookReview: Village in the Dark by Iris YamashitaVillage in the Dark (Cara Kennedy, #2) by Iris Yamashita
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Cara Kennedy #2
Pages: 288
Published by Berkley on February 13, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Detective Cara Kennedy thought she’d lost her husband and son in an accident, but harrowing evidence has emerged that points to murder--and she will stop at nothing to find the truth in this riveting mystery from the author of City Under One Roof.
On a frigid February day, Anchorage Detective Cara Kennedy stands by the graves of her husband and son, watching as their caskets are raised from the earth. It feels sacrilegious, but she has no choice. Aaron and Dylan disappeared on a hike a year ago, their bones eventually found and buried. But shocking clues have emerged that foul play was involved, potentially connecting them to a string of other deaths and disappearances.  Somehow tied to the mystery is Mia Upash, who grew up in an isolated village called Unity, a community of women and children in hiding from abusive men. Mia never imagined the trouble she would find herself in when she left home to live in Man’s World. Although she remains haunted by the tragedy of what happened to the man and the boy in the woods, she has her own reasons for keeping quiet. Aided by police officer Joe Barkowski and other residents of Point Mettier, Cara’s investigation will lead them on a dangerous path that puts their lives and the lives of everyone around them in mortal jeopardy.

My Review:

Just as once-and-future Anchorage PD Detective Cara Kennedy wrapped up the murder cases at Point Mettier in City Under One Roof, a monkey wrench was thrown into the case nearest and dearest to her heart. Cara has been, honestly not surprisingly, unwilling to let the case of her husband’s and her son’s deaths go, to the point where the Anchorage PD’s psych evaluation put her out on disability.

Not a good place for a detective with nothing to do but dwell on the ‘might have beens’ to be. Particularly not when a picture of her late husband, her dead son, and herself, taken just before the ill-fated trip that left her a widow, was found on the cell phone of one of the gang members responsible for the deaths in Point Mettier in that first adventure.

Making Cara in this second mystery the equivalent of a dog with a very large bone to chew on. A bone that is made just that much bigger when she has her family’s bodies exhumed and discovers that, whoever they are, and whatever the Anchorage PD told her, the bodies she buried under her husband’s and son’s names were not, in fact, the bodies of her husband and son.

Although it certainly looks like one of those bodies was the victim of murder. Adding yet more questions to the pile of unanswered ones that she already has. And not just questions about who the now unidentified bodies were, and who are the other missing, presumed dead people in that gang member’s cell phone photo roll.

Because if the two bodies she buried weren’t her own loved ones, then where the hell are her husband and her son? Are they dead by some other misadventure lost in some other remote part of the Alaskan Bush? Or are they alive and in hiding?

Or worse, does her husband have something to do with the long list of missing and presumed dead faces in that photo roll? Cara can’t rest until she finds out the truth – whether it sets her free or gets her killed. Or both, not necessarily in that order.

Escape Rating B: Part of what made City Under One Roof work so well was the claustrophobic nature of its setting. Whittier, like the city modeled after it in the story, really is a city under one roof. That a significant chunk of that first story takes place while Point Mettier is literally cut off from the rest of the world – as really does happen in Whittier – gives the story a kind of ‘locked room’ vibe, complete with time running out as the tunnel will eventually open and the bottled up suspects will have the opportunity to escape.

The story in Village in the Dark spreads itself out in both time and space, as the action shifts from Point Mettier to Mia’s temporary refuge outside Willow to Anchorage and back again. It’s also a bigger story, in that it begins with Cara’s seemingly never-ending quest to find out what really happened – or who really happened – to her husband and son but loops in one of Point Mettier’s more colorful residents, that woman’s search for the events that led to her own son’s death, and then seemingly tacks on one mysterious young woman attempting to hide in plain sight.

It’s a bigger story but it’s a whole lot less tight and taut in the way that City Under One Roof was, and that mysteries are at their best. In other words, I got lost a bit whenever we switched to young Mia’s point of view because she started out WAY out there compared to the central axis of the story. Not that she didn’t finally move to the center of things, but it certainly took a while.

In the end, it’s a story about drugs and money. About corruption and temptation and dirty deeds done dirt cheap in the service of people who will never pay the price for the deeds done in their name – even if that name is a false one hidden behind multiple go-betweens.

But the further the story spread out, the less it hung together until the rapid-fire denouement. And then it was, quite literally, gangbusters.

At the end, the story that brought Cara into this series has been resolved. Whether it will be the jumping off point for more, and less personal and more procedural investigations, is a mystery yet to be solved.

One final note, the subtext in this entry in the series is the ease with which the police dismiss missing persons cases and crimes against women, particularly, in the Alaskan setting, indigenous women. The same horrifying subtext also underlaid the suspense in last year’s The Way of the Bear by Anne Hillerman. Coincidentally, or perhaps a commentary on the pervasiveness of the issue, the book I am currently listening to, Glory Be by Danielle Arceneaux, has an entirely too similar tragedy at its heart, yet again exploring and decrying the ease with which police discount and dismiss crimes against black women in that book’s Louisiana setting.

The pervasiveness of this all too real problem is considerably more chilling than the suspense in ANY mystery.

Presidents’ Day 2024

Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant

Since this is a book review, blog, let us consider U.S. presidents as authors. Here is an extract from Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs, finished shortly before his death from throat cancer. Although some people today seem to be confused about the causes of the Civil War, Grant was very clear-eyed in 1885:

The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United Status will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years before the war began it was a trite saying among some politicians that “A state half slave and half free cannot exist.” All must become slave or all free, or the state will go down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.

Slavery was an institution that required unusual guarantees for its security wherever it existed; and in a country like ours where the larger portion of it was free territory inhabited by an intelligent and well-to-do population, the people would naturally have but little sympathy with demands upon them for its protection. Hence the people of the South were dependent upon keeping control of the general government to secure the perpetuation of their favorite institution. They were enabled to maintain this control long after the States where slavery existed had ceased to have the controlling power, through the assistance they received from odd men here and there throughout the Northern States. They saw their power waning, and this led them to encroach upon the prerogatives and independence of the Northern States by enacting such laws as the Fugitive Slave Law. By this law every Northern man was obliged, when properly summoned, to turn out and help apprehend the runaway slave of a Southern man. Northern marshals became slave-catchers, and Northern courts had to contribute to the support and protection of the institution.

This was a degradation which the North would not permit any longer than until they could get the power to expunge such laws from the statute books. Prior to the time of these encroachments the great majority of the people of the North had no particular quarrel with slavery, so long as they were not forced to have it themselves. But they were not willing to play the role of police for the South in the protection of this particular institution.

In the early days of the country, before we had railroads, telegraphs and steamboats—in a word, rapid transit of any sort—the States were each almost a separate nationality. At that time the subject of slavery caused but little or no disturbance to the public mind. But the country grew, rapid transit was established, and trade and commerce between the States got to be so much greater than before, that the power of the National government became more felt and recognized and, therefore, had to be enlisted in the cause of this institution.

It is probably well that we had the war when we did. We are better off now than we would have been without it, and have made more rapid progress than we otherwise should have made. The civilized nations of Europe have been stimulated into unusual activity, so that commerce, trade, travel, and thorough acquaintance among people of different nationalities, has become common; whereas, before, it was but the few who had ever had the privilege of going beyond the limits of their own country or who knew anything about other people. Then, too, our republican institutions were regarded as experiments up to the breaking out of the rebellion, and monarchical Europe generally believed that our republic was a rope of sand that would part the moment the slightest strain was brought upon it. Now it has shown itself capable of dealing with one of the greatest wars that was ever made, and our people have proven themselves to be the most formidable in war of any nationality.

But this war was a fearful lesson, and should teach us the necessity of avoiding wars in the future.

Many of the books written by presidents (or ghostwritten for them) are of course campaign books, mostly forgettable and largely forgotten, with a few exceptions such as JFK’s Profiles in Courage (actually written almost entirely by Ted Sorensen) and Obama’s Dreams from My Father. For an overview of presidents as author, I’ve acquired a copy of Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote by Craig Fehrman. Perhaps a review will come later if it’s interesting.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 2-18-24

This week has definitely better. I finally stopped feeling like all I was full of was snot sometime late last Sunday. Clearly, it’s better to be full of piss and vinegar than snot, because you get more done that way. But c’est la vie, it is what it is, etc., etc., etc. The hurrieder I go, the behindeder I get. I’m working on it.

This past week’s books were all just really, really good. I can’t wait to see what this coming week’s books bring, particularly as I’ve been chomping at the virtual bit to dig into The Lantern’s Dance. I remember listening to the first book in the series, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, OMG THIRTY YEARS AGO, and thinking that the concept really shouldn’t work, but damned if it didn’t anyway. And it still does. Does it ever!

Last week’s picture was of Tuna’s sister, Luna, in more-or-less the same upside-down-kitty-face position. (They are biological and not merely adopted siblings from the same litter. You can kind of see the resemblance around the eyes and face although there’s certainly a lot more of Tuna to love.) When Tuna actually posed for me a few days ago, I couldn’t resist snapping him in the same position before he woke up enough to figure out what I was doing. Doesn’t he look winsome as well as handsome?

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Love is in the Air Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Wish Big Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Winter 2024 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the Heart 2 Heart Giveaway Hop is Angela

Blog Recap:

A+ #BookReview: The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles by Malka Older
Grade A #BookReview: The Bezzle by Cory Doctorow
A- #BookReview: At First Spite by Olivia Dade
A- #AudioBookReview: What Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher
Wish Big Giveaway Hop
Stacking the Shelves (588)

Coming This Week:

Presidents’ Day 2024 (#GuestPost by Galen)
Village in the Dark by Iris Yamashita (#BlogTour #BookReview)
The Lantern’s Dance by Laurie R. King (#BookReview)
The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai (#BookReview)
Glory Be by Danielle Arceneaux (#BlogTour #AudioBookReview)

Stacking the Shelves (588)

This week’s covers fall into two categories. Either they’re really pretty or they’re just pretty weird, and not much in the middle. As much as I can’t resist a library, I think the prettiest covers are Daughter of the Merciful Deep and The God and the Gumiho, although I could certainly understand if someone liked Lady Eve’s Last Con better than either. As far as weird goes, well, I was already headed down an internet rabbit hole when I spotted Centaur and Sensibility and decided “what the heck” because seriously, WTF?

After having said all of that the book in this stack I’ve been most looking forward to is the next Gamache book by Louise Penny, The Grey Wolf. Nineteen books in and that series is STILL awesome.

For Review:
Convergence Problems by Wole Talabi
Daughter of the Merciful Deep by Leslye Penelope
The God and the Gumiho (Fate’s Thread #1) by Sophie Kim
The Grey Wolf (Chief Inspector Gamache #19) by Louise Penny
Lady Eve’s Last Con by Rebecca Fraimow
The Underground Library by Jennifer Ryan

Purchased from Amazon/Audible/Etc.:
The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed (ebook and audio)
Centaur and Sensibility (Regency Bestiary for Fine Ladies and Gentlemen #1) by Quenby Olson
Manticore Park (Regency Bestiary for Fine Ladies and Gentlemen #2) by Quenby Olson


If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Wish Big Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Wish Big Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

At this moment, I’m wishing for wellness – an excellent thing to wish for no matter what the season. I pulled my right hamstring about a month ago, and I’m finally at the point where it mostly doesn’t both me – although I’m still annoyed at the things I can’t quite get back to doing. I’m also just getting over the truly nasty cold that’s been going around. If there’s anything more annoying than being snotty all the time, I haven’t found it. Not that it’s life-threatening or anything terrible, but it’s one’s nose, and one just can’t away from one’s own nose no matter how much one might want to.

Also, whenever either of us sneezes, it scares ALL the cats half to death themselves. It’s like all them suddenly have 16 legs each, all madly scrambling in opposing directions, all at the same time!

So, what’s at the top of your wish list right now? Share in the rafflecopter for your chance at Reading Reality’s usual giveaway hop prize, the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 in Books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’re wishing for more chances at more big prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

A- #AudioBookReview: What Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher

A- #AudioBookReview: What Feasts at Night by T. KingfisherWhat Feasts at Night (Sworn Soldier, #2) by T. Kingfisher
Narrator: Avi Roque
Format: audiobook, eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: horror
Series: Sworn Soldier #2
Pages: 160
Length: 5 hours and 2 minutes
Published by Macmillan Audio, Tor Nightfire on February 13, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

The follow-up to T. Kingfisher’s bestselling gothic novella, What Moves the Dead .

Retired soldier Alex Easton returns in a horrifying new adventure.

After their terrifying ordeal at the Usher manor, Alex Easton feels as if they just survived another war. All they crave is rest, routine, and sunshine, but instead, as a favor to Angus and Miss Potter, they find themself heading to their family hunting lodge, deep in the cold, damp forests of their home country, Gallacia.

In theory, one can find relaxation in even the coldest and dampest of Gallacian autumns, but when Easton arrives, they find the caretaker dead, the lodge in disarray, and the grounds troubled by a strange, uncanny silence. The villagers whisper that a breath-stealing monster from folklore has taken up residence in Easton’s home. Easton knows better than to put too much stock in local superstitions, but they can tell that something is not quite right in their home. . . or in their dreams.

My Review:

It’s not mushrooms this time. Not that there isn’t something creeping around the old hunting lodge that retired soldier Alex Easton inherited from their family in the remoter parts of their native Gallacia. And not that Easton isn’t still experiencing PTSD and a whole, entire and entirely justified case of the collywobbles at even the thought of anything that might possibly have to do with mushrooms after the fungus-powered monstrosities in Easton’s first outing, What Moves the Dead.

In fact, after the events in What Moves the Dead, it’s not at all surprising that Easton is searching for a bit of peace and quiet. It’s just a surprise that they’ve gone home to Gallacia to find either of those things. Because it is clear from Easton’s opening remarks regarding this trip to their homeland, the whys and wherefores of the whole thing, and their thoughts and feelings about Gallacia and anything to do with it that they would much rather have stayed in Paris.

As Easton makes VERY clear on the way to that hunting lodge they haven’t visited in the past ten years, at least in the conversation they are having with themselves inside the confines of their own head, they are feeling very put upon by this whole trip. Their reluctance, at least, is apparent in the conversation they are having aloud, the one between themselves, their very good horse Hob, their batman and general factotum Angus, and Angus’ mustache, which seems to convey rather strong opinions of its own in spite of not actually being able to say a word.

Besides, it’s all Angus’ fault. Well, Angus’ fault as well as Easton’s own sense of propriety – no matter how much they’d like to let THAT go hang itself at the moment. Because Eugenia Potter, that redoubtable English mycologist who so ably assisted them with the fungal infestation in the House of Usher in What Moves the Dead, has been invited to Gallacia to observe the local fungi, with Easton as her ostensible host.

Honestly, it’s to further Miss Potter’s romance with Angus, but no one is admitting that. It wouldn’t be proper.

Easton planned to arrive at the lodge a few days ahead of Miss Potter, expecting to find the place in reasonable shape, just needing a bit of restocking and tidying up. That’s how Easton remembers it from the last time they were there. But Easton also remembers a caretaker taking care of the place, a caretaker that Easton has been paying a salary to for years and years, and as recently as the preceding month.

So, it’s obvious when Easton and Angus arrive that things are not quite what they expected. The house is a mess, the caretaker is a few months dead, and no one seems to be willing to be employed to help Easton and Angus get the place cleaned up and cleaned out, in spite of the good wages in hard currency that Easton is more than willing to pay in this poverty-stricken village where those things are seldom seen or even heard of.

Which is the point where Easton should have rescinded the invitation to Miss Potter and run back to Paris as fast as their horse’s legs could carry them. Because there’s something uncanny about the caretaker’s death, and there’s something dangerous haunting the old hunting lodge.

At least, this time, it’s not mushrooms.

Escape Rating A-: I’m not sure whether to say that What Feasts at Night isn’t quite as creepy as What Moves the Dead, or to say that it is even creepier. Let’s say I’m creeping along that fence and not sure which side I’ll fall off onto.

What Moves the Dead was a creepy story that turned out to be a bit more scientifically inclined than anything that happens within it might lead the reader to expect.

What Feasts at Night, very much on the other hand, reads much more like a fever dream story about pneumonia and PTSD. Or a ghost story about PTSD. Or a nightmare about a ghost that’s strangely cured or killed through PTSD that only masquerades as being about pneumonia. Or all of the above.

The fever dream aspects of the story, particularly as the pneumonia, or the wandering local vampire/ghost creeps its way into the dreams of both Alex Easton and the grandson of the bitter old woman they finally manage to hire to take care of the house, manage to both make the story even creepier AND slow it down at the same time. Because for the longest time not much happens except in dreams and that’s not a quick process until the end. Not helped at all by the fact that no one local will really EXPLAIN anything about what might be happened, and Easton clearly didn’t get told the right stories when they were growing up.

But at that point, where the dream and the ghost and Easton’s PTSD all emerge on the same battlefield, it’s chilling and riveting and every frightening thing the reader has been expecting all along. It just feels like it takes a while to get there. But then, that’s what dreams do.

One thing that does kick the story along, frequently, often, and with more than a bit of a rueful laugh, is that it’s clear from the volume of conversations that Easton has with themself that the author has never met a Fourth Wall she wasn’t more than willing to batter her way through head first, whether using her protagonist’s head or even her own.

Which is one of the things that made listening to What Feasts at Night so much creepy fun, as the narrator, Avi Roque, has a rough, smoky voice that is perfect for Easton as it lets us inside their wry, sarcastic, self-deprecating head even as they tell both themselves and us that they realize that they should have known better at so many points along the way of the story they are now telling, if only they hadn’t let their logic get in the way of observing what was actually happening around them.

I enjoy Alex Easton’s voice, even when I’m not nearly so certain about the story they are telling. Horror is not my jam, but in this case I’m here for the characters, and Easton’s perspective is compelling even when the story they are in the middle of is creeping me right the hell out.

A- #BookReview: At First Spite by Olivia Dade

A- #BookReview: At First Spite by Olivia DadeAt First Spite (Harlot's Bay #1) by Olivia Dade
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, small town romance
Series: Harlot's Bay #1
Pages: 400
Published by Avon on February 13, 2024
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books
Goodreads

Bestselling author Olivia Dade welcomes you to Harlot's Bay in this delightfully sexy rom-com about a woman who buys the town's famous Spite House, only to realize the infuriating man she can't stand lives right next door--and their unwilling proximity might spark something neither can ignore.
When Athena Greydon's fiancé ends their engagement, she has no choice but to move into the Spite House she recklessly bought him as a wedding gift. This is a problem, for several reasons: The house, originally built as a brick middle finger to the neighbors, is only ten feet wide. Her ex's home is attached to hers. And Dr. Matthew Vine the Freaking Third (aka the uptight, judgmental jerk who convinced his younger brother to leave her) is living on the other side, only a four-foot alley away.
If she has to see Matthew every time she looks out her windows, she might as well have some fun with the situation--by, say, playing erotic audiobooks at top volume with the windows open. A woman living in a Spite House is basically obligated to get petty payback however she can, right?
Unfortunately, loathing Matthew proves more difficult than anticipated. He helps her move. He listens. And he's kind of...hot? Dammit.

My Review:

Today is Valentine’s Day, which means that today’s review absolutely had to be a romance.

So when At First Spite sashayed its way to the top of the virtually towering TBR pile, with a come-hither look and a sassy come-on, I didn’t even try to resist its siren song.

Welcome to Harlot’s Bay, Maryland, a place that really, truly, seriously – if laughably – leans into its salacious name – and history.

Athena Greydon thought she’d be moving in with her new husband, Dr. Johnny Vine, tanned, rested and refreshed after their picture-perfect, one month Hawaiian dream vacation, meticulously crafted and created by Athena herself and her innate desire to learn and experience ALL THE THINGS.

Instead, Johnny is off on that vacation alone, after he left her just about at the altar because his brother Matthew convinced him to dump her, while Athena is moving into Spite House, the tiny slice of house attached like a limpet to the side of Johnny’s row house in ‘downtown’ Harlot’s Bay. In the pouring rain, alone with a 10 foot-wide, four-story house that is now all she has left to her name.

It was supposed to have been a wedding present to her new husband, because he wanted to tear out the wall and expand his own house. Now it’s a refuge for Athena’s pride, sailing all alone on a sea of regret.

Athena needs help to get herself moved in, and the only person offering is the last person Athena wants to ever see again. Johnny’s older brother, Dr. Matthew Vine, the man with the stick up his ass and the endless number of reasons why Athena would make a terrible wife for Johnny.

And he’s absolutely right, as the story eventually proves, but not from the perspective through which Athena originally sees – or actually hears – the argument. It’s not so much that Athena would make a terrible wife for Johnny as it is that Johnny would make a terrible husband for Athena. Or honestly, that they are just so wrong for each other that Matthew can’t even articulate it – if only because he’s spent nearly all his life parenting his younger brother and can’t even let himself think that he doesn’t have enough spoons left to parent them both.

Even though it looks like that’s exactly what will happen if they make it to the altar. And Hawaii. And the not so happy ever after that would inevitably come after.

For all three of them. Because, as much as Athena and Johnny are wrong for each other, Athena is entirely too right for Matthew – and vice versa. Even if no one will ever forgive anyone if THAT scenario comes to pass. So, of course, Matthew can’t let that happen, either.

Until it does.

Escape Rating A-: It’s clear early in At First Spite that the narrow confines of Spite House aren’t nearly wide enough to handle ALL of the emotional baggage that Athena, Johnny, and Matthew have deposited there, in spite of Athena being the only person actually living within its walls.

Because they are all hot messes – but not the same kind of hot mess.

As often as the author’s trademark sassy humor and snarky banter trip the light fantastic across the pages of this romance, the story in At First Spite is absolutely NOT all fun and games. (If that’s what you’re looking for, I highly recommend Spoiler Alert and its sequels because WOW what a terrific ride that series is!) Which leads right back into the hot messes that the three – and yes, really, it’s all three of them and it is, sorta/kinda, just the type of romantic triangle that should have landed them all in a session with Dr. Phil – or even the late Jerry Springer.

The heart and the heartbreak of the story in At First Spite lives at the corner of parentification and depression, and it’s not a pretty place – but it certainly is a real one. Not that any of the characters are all that great at communicating what’s going on inside their heads.

I want to be glib and snarky here myself, and that is utterly the wrong mood to strike. This is serious stuff, and stuff that all of us at least brush against at some points in our lives – no matter how much we’re taught not to, well, talk about it.

Athena’s situation – and Matthew’s contributions thereto – cause her to finally hit an emotional bottom she’s been tap-dancing over the top of for most of her life. At the same time, Matthew’s reluctant acceptance that everything he’s said about Athena is way more about his relationship with his younger brother than it has anything directly to do with Athena herself is a struggle that he keeps losing – which is where the parentification part of the story comes in – and very nearly does them all in along with it.

While Johnny’s charmed life of charming everyone around him, getting mostly what he wants while knowing that Matthew will pick up the pieces has to come to an end – he has to figure that shit out for himself while Athena and Matthew are concentrating – as they should be – on each other.

So, on the one hand – possibly the hand with a whoopie-cushion in it – this first book in the Harlot’s Bay series (and YAY about THAT!) introduces us to this charming, quirky town and the equally charming and quirky people in it. Along with their seemingly endless love for broadcasting salacious audiobooks of monster porn from the literal rooftops.

And on the other, much more serious hand, there’s a beautiful story about two people helping each other stand on their own two feet, discover their own worth in their own selves and learn to stick to their own guns about it, and learn to grovel appropriately when necessary with the help of grand gestures that also involve – you guessed it – rooftop audiobook broadcasts of anatomically impossible monster porn.

Along with the beginning of the story of one irresponsible man-child finally manning up and getting out from under his brother’s overprotective shadow. The rest of which story will hopefully be told later in the series, but in the meantime the next book is titled Dearly Departed, a story which will somehow, both heartbreakingly and hilariously in equal measure, manage to lead to a happy ever after for the local supplier of all audiobooks monster porn. Because I can’t wait to find out the who, what, when, where and why of that whole, entire thing.