What can I say about the past year that hasn’t already been said by wiser and smarter people than me? It has been a difficult time, for everyone, though I know the degree of difficulty has been different for each person. My favorite quote about this went something like — we may all be weathering the same storm, but we’re in different boats in that storm. That brought it home to me. So, for everyone, from those who’ve lost a loved one to this horrid virus, or who are/were themselves sick, to those struggling to make ends meet because you’re out of work, to those stuck at home, unable to see loved ones, I send my love. I wish you well and hope this year will be better, for all of us.
“First in a delightfully charming crime series set in 1930s Singapore, introducing amateur sleuth Su Lin, a local girl stepping in as governess for the Acting Governor of Singapore.
1936 in the Crown Colony of Singapore, and the British abdication crisis and rising Japanese threat seem very far away. When the Irish nanny looking after Acting Governor Palin’s daughter dies suddenly – and in mysterious circumstances – mission school-educated local girl Su Lin – an aspiring journalist trying to escape an arranged marriage – is invited to take her place.
But then another murder at the residence occurs and it seems very likely that a killer is stalking the corridors of Government House. It now takes all Su Lin’s traditional skills and intelligence to help British-born Chief Inspector Thomas LeFroy solve the murders – and escape with her own life.”
Another selection for our Family Book Club, and another book I wouldn’t have selected on my own. My niece, Deborah, picked it because we’d been reading some pretty heavy stuff and she decided we needed something light. She was right. And this was delightful. Set in 1930’s Singapore, it was well written and, well . . . delightful. I ordered the second in the series.
“Raymond Jaffe feels like he doesn’t belong. Not with his mother’s new family. Not as a weekend guest with his father and his father’s wife. Not at school, where he’s an outcast. After his best friend moves away, Raymond has only two real connections: to the feral cat he’s tamed and to a blind ninety-two-year-old woman in his building who’s introduced herself with a curious question: Have you seen Luis Velez?
Mildred Gutermann, a German Jew who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, has been alone since her caretaker disappeared. She turns to Raymond for help, and as he tries to track Luis down, a deep and unexpected friendship blossoms between the two.
Despondent at the loss of Luis, Mildred isolates herself further from a neighborhood devolving into bigotry and fear. Determined not to let her give up, Raymond helps her see that for every terrible act the world delivers, there is a mirror image of deep kindness, and Mildred helps Raymond see that there’s hope if you have someone to hold on to.”
One of my sisters picked it for our first Family Book Club selection, and although it’s not my typical read, but I really enjoyed it. I loved the characters, especially the two main characters, who were just so warm and upbeat. I guess with the craziness of 2020, I really needed to read about good people.
Also, if you’re a KU reader it’s free.
“An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.
As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.”
Stephen King never ceases to amaze me with his story-telling mastery. The Outsider is tightly plotted with deeply layered characters. There is, of course, an element of horror in the book. However, the first half is an intriguing mystery which will have you wondering who committed the horrific crime.
If you’re squeamish, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re a King fan or can handle dark suspense, you won’t be disappointed.
BTW – I listened to the audio version of the book. The reader was Will Patton and he was excellent.
As readers, I suspect you’ve often experienced someone asking you who your favorite author is. I mean, how do you answer that question? I have dozens of favorite authors, and I suspect you do as well. Maybe even dozens by genre. How can you compare your favorite romance authors to your favorite sci/fi or horror authors? You can’t. Plus, your favorites change over time when you discover that new, or just new to you author, or an old-favorite just doesn’t appeal any more. So that’s why I often post or write about “one of my favorites”, because, there is just no picking one.
So, my review this month is again about one of my all-time favorites: Robert McCammon. He has to be in my top five—if I was bold or crazy enough to claim I could even name a list of my top five authors. He has all three elements that combine to make me love his books. First, he’s a great storyteller, with interesting plots that hold up and pull you through his books. Second, characters . . . characters . . . characters—he does unique and interesting and compelling. And third, he’s simply an excellent writer. Should I repeat that? The man can write.
With the above in mind, I’m recommending Robert McCammon’s Mathew Corbet series. They are billed as historical thrillers, but they also have a touch of horror in them. (Did I mention I LOVE these books?) There are currently six of them, and I’ve read the first five . . . with the sixth currently on my eReader. Although, like a lot of readers, I love series, I also usually get tired of them by the third or fourth, but I haven’t tired of these. Each book is a standalone mystery / thriller story, but over the course of the book there is another longer theme and story running through them.
Check out the first, Speaks The Nightbird, and let me know what you think in the comment section below.
SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD by Robert McCammon
Mathew Corbett: Book One
It’s 1699 in the coastal settlement of Fount Royal in the Carolinas when Rachel Howarth is sentenced to be hanged as a witch. She’s been accused of murder, deviltry, and blasphemous sexual congress, and the beleaguered, God-fearing colonial village wants her dead. But Matthew Corbett, young clerk to the traveling magistrate summoned to Fount Royal to weigh the accusations, soon finds himself persuaded in favor of the beguiling young widow.
Struck first by her beauty, Matthew believes Rachel to be too dignified, courageous, and intelligent for such obscene charges. The testimony against her is fanatical and unreliable. Clues to the crimes seem too convenient and contrived. A number of her accusers appear to gain by her execution. And, if Rachel is a witch, why hasn’t she used her powers to fly away from the gaol on the wings of a nightbird?
God and Satan are indeed at war. Something really is happening in the newly established settlement—of that Corbett is certain. As his investigation draws him into the darkness of a town gone mad, and deeper into its many secrets, Corbett realizes that time is running out for him, for Rachel, and for the hope that good could possibly win out over evil in Fount Royal.
Click on the cover images or links for more information about each title.
The Queen of Bedlam (Book #2)
Mister Slaughter (Book #3)
Providence Rider (Book #4)
The River of Souls (Book #5)
Freedom of the Mask (Book #6)
Enjoy the books! Pat Lewin
I imagine Andy Weir was a bit daunted by the prospect of following his surprise blockbuster, The Martian, with a new novel. Most authors build their skill and readership over numerous books, so that by the time they write that breakout novel, the one that gets all the buzz and a movie deal, they’re well- grounded and confident in their skills. Andy Weir, however, didn’t have that luxury, and I expect he, like a lot of his readers, were wondering if he was a one-book wonder. So, I admit, I was a bit skeptical about reading his next book – oh, I had to read it – but I was ready to be disappointed.
First, Artemis is a very different type of story than The Martian. It’s a heist / thriller vs. a strictly survival story. However, there are similarities. It’s set on the Moon in the near-future, and once again Weir draws on his scientific knowledge to give us a taste of what living there might be like. But he never goes overboard with details. In fact, his main character often makes fun of the scientific details.
Which brings me to my next point. Not only is the setting of Artemis similar in time and space to The Martian, but Weir’s style and voice are every bit as engaging in Artemis. Let’s face it, a lone survivor on Mars could have been very dull story, but it wasn’t. Instead Weir’s ability to create great characters with humor as well as a lot of smarts, turns his stories into something fun, interesting, and engaging.
All authors have their favorite books, the ones that will always hold a special place for them. I have several that have meaning for me because of the time or circumstances when I wrote them, or simply because I loved the story. However, I could not pick just one.
On the other hand, of all the characters I’ve created, Erin Baker is my favorite. She’s smart, brave, strong, and well . . . damaged. I’ve often said that I not only love writing about Erin, I want to be her. (Well, except for the ‘damaged’ part.)
So where did she come from? I’m not sure. I usually plan out my characters with certain traits in mind that will fulfill the needs of the story. Erin, though, came to life for me organically. I had a story I wanted to write, all plotted out, and I needed a character to live that story. Before I knew it, Erin took on a life of her own. It was like she became the director, telling me who she was and how she’d act. It was, as an author who usually has control of her stories and characters, a wonderful adventure. And so, Erin Baker came alive for me, first in Out of Reach and then, Out of Time.
However, I’m still not done with her. You remember that whole ‘damaged’ part? At the end of Out of Time, she’s nearly broken . . . So I have to find out if and how she heals in the next book, Out of the Woods (Coming later this year). And yes, Erin’s still the director.
P.S. Go take a look at my working cover for Out of the Woods and let me know what you think.
I’m obsessed with apocalypse fiction. (I’m sure a psychiatrist would have a field day with that confession. LOL!) I’ve been reading it for as long as I can remember. So, when a friend mentioned that Nora Roberts had a new apocalypse book out, I was intrigued. I mean, Nora writes wonderfully warm, rich romances . . . I couldn’t imagine her making the leap to the dark side of fiction with an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it story, and of course, I had to check it out.
So, what did I think? I was impressed. Year One holds its own with the very best of apocalypse fiction: Robert McCammon’s, Swan Song, Stephen King’s, The Stand, and any other number of really good apocalyptic books.
Nora Roberts is an absolute master storyteller. (She’s has, after all, published over 225 books.) This shouldn’t surprise any of her gad-zillion fans, but if you don’t read romance, you might not be that familiar with her. She, however, pulls off this story brilliantly – yes, I’m a bit jealous. Great characters – always the hallmark of good book – an excellent and compelling plot, and very strong writing.
Unless you hate the genre, and I do understand that end-of-the-world stories are not for everyone, I highly recommend you read, or listen (as I did) to Year One.
Back Cover Copy
It began on New Year’s Eve.
The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.
Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.
As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.
In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.
The end has come. The beginning comes next.
Originally, I planned Out of the Woods as a short story. So much for my “plans”.
What happened was that at the end of Out of Time, my heroine Erin (who, BTW, is my favorite of all my characters) is left emotionally battered from the events of the story. So, I meant the short story as a transition between Out of Time and the next full novel in the series—which I already have planned and outlined.
As I started to work on the short, however, I hit a major roadblock. I moaned and groaned and complained to fellow writers. And, as often happens when writers work together, one of my friends said, “what about . . .” and in the next few minutes, she suggested a solution that was both brilliant and unique.
We talked it over and as I got more excited about her idea, it suddenly hit me. “This is not a short story.”
“No,” she said, smiling, and maybe just a wee bit amused at how long it took me to realize what she’d known from the beginning. “It’s not.”
And that was that. On that day, Out of the Woods became the third book in the Erin Baker series. Welcome to the wacky, crooked road of being a working writer.
So, when will it be released? I’m working on finishing it by the end of February. Then it needs to go through the editing process, etc.. So look for it in late spring or early summer. I’ll keep you updated.
Tell me what’s on your eReader for a chance to win an Amazon Gift Card.
Just post what you’re reading below during the month of December, and if I pick your recommendation, I’ll send you the gift certificate. IOW, convince me that what you’re reading is great. That easy. So give yourself something for the holidays.
P.S. If I get 25 comments, I’ll up the gift certificate to $25.
So, what’s on my eReader? Well, I just finished Rachel Caine’s Stillhouse Lake. (See my review below. Now, I’ve just started Manhunt by Ann Voss Peterson. I’ll let you know what I think.