Sunday, February 27, 2022

"Stoneheart Hunt" by Abby D. Jones, with Martin Brodde

This book is one wild ride.  It's a wronged-woman-seeks-vengeance western crossed with a post-apocalyptic bounty hunter sci-fi story.  Hannie Caulder meets Mad Max, but as a Snow White retelling.  With motorcycles and poisonous apples and lots of guns.

Psyche is the lone survivor of a vicious biker gang raid on the remote gunsmithing business where she worked.  Raped and left to die, she clings to life long enough to get rescued by a bounty hunter just seeking fuel at her outpost.

Sul wonders if it would have been kinder to let Psyche die.  But he nurses her back to life, binds her wounds, and helps her take revenge on the men who brutalized her.  Then Sul and Psyche part ways, seemingly for good.

Eight years later, their paths cross again.  Psyche's daughter Rune is the target of a mysterious woman named Volo Pine who thinks Rune is the key to her greatest desire: immortal beauty.  Pine hires a bounty hunter to fetch her Rune's heart, but that bounty hunter happens to be Sul.  Once again, Psyche and Sul must team up to stop a vile enemy that seeks only to ruin and destroy.

I read this book in a single day.  It sucked me in and held me fast until I'd chowed my way to the very satisfying conclusion.  I was hoping to like it, since I'm friends with Abby Jones, but I wasn't expecting to love it so much!  I actually got to read a very early version of this story several years ago, and seeing how it's bloomed into a full and rich novel was so wonderful!  I especially loved Mr. and Mrs. Cricket, a charming elderly couple who helped Psyche and Rune so, so much.

Particularly Good Bits: 

Sometimes if you can't get a hug, giving one is enough, Psyche thought (p. 40).

"I think it's a moral duty to be as happy as a body can, don't you?" (p. 110).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for memories of rape, lots of violence, and some really creepy magic stuff.

This is my sixth book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Friday, February 25, 2022

"Borden Chantry" by Louis L'Amour

I just might have me a new favorite L'Amour book.  It's been almost a decade since I reread Hondo, so I might have to pull that off the shelf to read again and see how it holds up, because... man, I really loved Borden Chantry.  

Borden Chantry is a recently appointed town marshal.  He never expected to be a peace officer, but his ranch hit some hard times and he had to sell off his herd.  To hang onto their land, he and his wife and son have moved to town so Chantry could find a job.  It's just not the job he was expecting.  But he's an upright, conscientious, trustworthy man, good with his fists and his gun if need be, but not given to showing off.  Just what a town needs in a marshal, even if it's a surprise to him.

Well, a dead body in the street one morning sets the town buzzing.  He was a stranger, and no one seems to know where he came from or why he was there.  He has good clothes, but nothing at all to identify him, and no money.  Also, his horse is missing.  Borden Chantry doesn't think of himself as a clever or intelligent man, but he sets about solving this homicide in a methodical and logical way that belies his own estimation of his intellect.  Before long, another murder rocks the town, and then Chantry finds a third, plus evidence that two deaths a year earlier may be linked to these.

Although this is not considered one of the Sackett novels, it has Sacketts in it, in minor roles.  As a writer who relishes tying different books together in small ways herself, that really pleased me :-)

(Photo by me.)

I picked this book up this past weekend at a tiny used book store up in the Shenandoah Valley -- I actually went hunting for it because I'd taken L'Amour's book Son of a Wanted Man along on a little family getaway and read it... and discovered that it is a sequel of sorts to Borden Chantry.  Happily, I found this for $2 and could start reading it right away, and I liked it better than Son of a Wanted Man! In fact, I loved it -- a murder mystery set in the Old West?  Yes, please!

Plus, Borden Chantry himself is just the sort of hero I love best -- quiet, calm, watchful, honorable, steely.  Yup, totally love him.  (His wife, on the other hand, I am not a fan of.  Sigh.)  Now I kind of want to reread parts of Son of a Wanted Man just to see all the ties to this.

Particularly Good Bits:

"Since the war, there's a lot of footloose men who can't seem to find a place to light" (p. 7).

As marshal his job was to enforce the law, and to him the laws were the rules that made civilization work.  Without them there was chaos.  They were not a restriction upon his freedom, but the doorway to greater freedom, for they established certain rules that men were not to transgress.  In the land in which he had grown up it was customary to settle disputes with a gun.  Consequently men, unless drunk, were cautious with their language and respectful of one another (p. 15-16).

"Some people believe the law to be a restriction... It is a restriction only against evil.  Laws are made to free people, not to bind them -- if they are proper laws.  They tell each of us what he may do without transgressing on the equal liberty of any other man" (p. 62).

He was himself an essentially private man, friendly but reserved, standing a cool sentry before the doors of his personal life (p. 107).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some mild bad language and non-gory western violence.

Since this is a murder mystery, I'm contributing it to my We Love Detectives Week blog party :-)

This is also the 5th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

"The Maltese Falcon" by Dashiell Hammett

I've seen the 1941 movie adaptation of The Maltese Falcon probably nine or ten times.  And I've read this before, though not for like fifteen+ years.  So, what I'm saying is, I was not reading this mystery book to find out whodunit.  I was reading it for the joy of the hardboiled flavor, really.  And it did not disappoint.

One thing that I really enjoyed was how much of the dialog from this book got included in the Humphrey Bogart movie.  Like, all the good lines come from the book.  I love that.  Hammett's dialog is not as snappy as Chandler's (nor are his descriptions as staggeringly wonderful), but he writes plenty of zingers, and I dig that so much.

The basic plot is that Sam Spade, private investigator, takes a job that ends up tangling him with a very colorful collection of characters who are all trying to get their greedy little paws on a falcon statue of incredible value.  Bodies pile up here and there, but Spade figures it all out and sees that justice is carried out in the end.  Dark, cynical, bitter, and twisted as the story and the characters may be, justice is still upheld.  I love that.

Although I could hear Bogart throughout the book when Spade was speaking, it really cracked me up that Spade doesn't look anything like Bogart.  In fact, the way Hammett describes him, he looks a lot more like Vincent Price in my head.  But Price of the 1950s, not the 1940s -- he would've been just a little to boyish in the early '40s to play the role.  Still, I had fun imagining him in the role.

Particularly Good Bits:

Spade said nothing in a blank-faced definite way (p. 43).

Her eyes were cobalt-blue prayers (p. 57).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for lots of cussing, some violence, oblique references to sexual deviance, references to a female character sleeping with someone to gain their trust, and some coarse dialog.

I am contributing this review to my We Love Detectives Week blog party that I'm hosting over on my other blog.  If you haven't stopped by to join the fun yet, there are still a couple days of party left!

This is also my 35th book read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

"Yearning to Breathe Free: Robert Smalls of South Carolina and His Families" by Andrew Billingsley


That's what I always say when I read about Robert Smalls.  Or think about him.  Or talk about him.  Wow.  What an amazing human being.

Born into slavery in Beaufort, SC, Robert Smalls grew up privileged by slavery standards, oppressed by free ones.  He was a "house slave" as a child, then allowed to hire out as a young man to learn carpentry and shipbuilding, eventually becoming a skilled pilot for boats and even ships in the Charleston waterways.  He and his mother were "kindly" treated by their masters and mistresses... and yet, they were still slaves.  Just because they weren't beaten or sold away from each other, that didn't mean they weren't conscious every minute of the wrongness of their slavery.

And that is why, when the Civil War broke out and the Union Navy blockaded Charleston Harbor, Robert Smalls concocted a daring plan.  He and some fellow slaves commandeered the Planter, a fast steamship that Smalls worked aboard.  They sneaked their families aboard and boldly steamed right past all the Confederate defenses, including multiple forts, and reached the Union blockade and freedom unharmed.  

That's what Robert Smalls is most remembered for today, and I read all abut that in the book Be Free or Die by Cate Lineberry a couple years ago.  So why did I also read Yearning to Breathe Free?  Because I wanted to know more!  Because I knew that Robert Smalls's remarkable life didn't end with him snatching his family away from slavery, an I wanted to know more.

And, thanks to this book, now I do!  I know things like the fact that Robert Smalls conversed and corresponded with Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass.  He met with President Lincoln.  He led naval forces against the Confederates and rose quickly up the military ranks.  He was instrumental in convincing the government that they needed to enlist freedmen in their army.  After the war, he became active in local, state, and national politics and served several terms in Congress.

He also was an involved and loving husband, father, stepfather, and grandfather.  He was active in his local church.  And he was a successful businessman.  Not only that, but he was a kind and forgiving Christian who actually took in and cared for his former owner when she was an elderly woman living on charity.  Can there be any question why I would find Robert Smalls to be such an amazing and heroic person?  If you created a fictional character with all these qualities who went on all these exploits, readers would call them unrealistic.  No way could one person be that cool and do that many astonishing things.  And yet, Robert Smalls really was and really did.

Andrew Billingsley is a professor of sociology and African American studies, and his book definitely leans toward the sociological.  He explores the importance of family and community in the life of Robert Smalls, which I found really interesting because I do enjoy studying sociology.  Some people might find those parts of this book to be dry, but I did not.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for non-detailed discussions of life under slavery, which do include things like whippings, beatings, children born out of wedlock, and lynchings.  These are presented fairly academically, but might be too much for children.

This is my third book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Do You Love Detectives?

I completely forgot to announce this over here.  ::facepalm::  I'm hosting a blog party in two weeks on my other blog that you might be interested in!  It's called We Love Detectives Week, and you can read all about it in this post.  

Basically, it's a celebration of detective stories of every sort, whether they're books, stage plays, movies, TV shows, radio shows, whatever.  I'll be providing a tag with questions you can answer on your own blog, a couple of games, and probably a couple movie and book reviews.  Oh, and a giveaway!!!  And some of the giveaway prizes are books!!!  So you definitely should check it all out when it starts, if you like mysteries and detectives and so on.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

"Sweet Dreams, Irene" by Jan Burke (again)

I am SO happy that I decided to reread this series.  It's bringing me such enjoyment!  I read Sweet Dreams, Irene in a day and a half.  Most of it this afternoon, in fact.  Just curled up on the couch and inhaled it.

Newspaper reporter Irene Kelly is now in a definite relationship with Frank Harriman.  They haven't quite told each other they love each other, but they both know it's true.  And then Frank's next-door neighbor is brutally murdered, an election Irene is covering for the newspaper seems to be affected by the murder, and both Frank and Irene get told they can't try to help solve this case because of their involvement with each other.

Also, there are Wiccans and possible Satanists involved.  Also, some runaway teens.  Also, a burly biker dude.  And Frank wants Irene to attend his family's Thanksgiving get-together.  So much drama!  So much tension!  So much galloping excitement as all the pieces tangled together start to become clear!

Is it weird that murder mysteries are my comfort reads?  Specific kinds of murder mysteries -- ones written by authors I can trust to give me a happy ending with restored moral balance.  Like Jan Burke.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: R for a lot of bad language, torture, violent murder, and a lot of discussion of two unmarried people sleeping together (but they always fade to black after a kiss or a suggestive comment, which I appreciate).

Friday, February 4, 2022

"The Depths We'll Go To" ed. by Alex Silvius

This is an enjoyable collection of short stories and poetry all centered around the sea.  There are sailors, mermaids, and shipwrecks galore, in lots of different styles and genres.  Most of the stories are speculative fiction or fantasy.  Some of the writing is quite professional, and some of it reminded me of what my friends and I were writing in college, especially the "ambiguous ending" sorts of stories we were so fond of at that time in our lives.

My favorites are as follows:

Short Stories
  • "Edge of a Knife" by Beka Gremikova
  • "The Mermaid's Soul" by Beka Gremikova
  • "Mernaido" by Abigail Falanga
  • "Tears of the Sea" by Savannah Jezowski
  • "The Selkie's Gift" by Katie Hanna
  • "To Touch the Earth" by Beka Gremikova

  • "Begins to Thaw" by Alissa J. Zavalianos
  • "Deadweight" by Ariel Choate and Anne J. Hill
  • "Drowning" by Cassandra hamm
  • "Master of the Waves" by Savannah Jezowski

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for a little mild language here and there.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Hello, My Name Is...

This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is "Books with Character Names in the Title."  So here are my ten favorite books with the name of a character in the title.  

Each title is linked to my review if I've reviewed that book, and my movie-style ratings for them are in parentheses so you have some idea of their content level.

(All book photos are mine from my Instagram account.)

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (PG) -- A young woman continually resists men's efforts to control her by obeying God and her conscience instead.

2. Shane by Jack Schaefer (PG) -- A stranger joins a family and saves them from destruction, albeit at great cost.

3. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (G) -- An irrepressible orphan gets adopted by a taciturn old maid and her shy brother, to the ultimate benefit of all involved.

4. The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum (R) -- An assassin with amnesia tries to track down enemies he can't remember with the help of a brilliant accountant.

5. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (PG-13) -- A literature detective tries to rescue a kidnapped Jane Eyre and return her to her rightful book. 

6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling (PG) -- Harry Potter is doggedly pursued by an escaped prisoner seeking revenge.

7. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss (G) -- A boy with magical hats falls afoul of an outraged king and his spoiled nephew.

8. Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery (G) -- A girl gets to know her father and learns more about her true self in the process.

9. Homer Price by Robert McCloskey (G) -- A town full of quirky and sometimes eccentric people have gentle adventures.

10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (PG-13) -- A lonely millionaire learns you can't repeat, recapture, or rewrite the past.

There!  That's my ten.  Are you a fan of any of these?  Does it you surprise you that any of them made my top ten list?