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03 September 2019

The Highway (Cody Hody #1 / Cassie Dewell #1)

The Highway by C.J. Box is a novel of suspense that will haunt you. It is both the second book in the Cody Hoyt series and the first in the Cassie Dewell series – two police detectives in Helena, Montana. An experienced investigator who has been known to break the rules and a new investigator just starting out.

Teens Danielle and Gracie Sullivan are driving to their father’s house for Thanksgiving. But when Gracie (the younger and more responsible sister) falls asleep, Danielle turns north toward Helena to see Justin Hoyt. They met the previous summer when they were all on an adventure in Yellowstone that was a bit too interesting. Justin’s dad, Cody, ultimately saved the girls from a serial killer. Danielle and Justin have been dating, long-distance, since then. Danielle knows Justin wants to break up but is sure in person she can convince him not to.

 When the young women stop texting Justin, he gets worried and calls his dad to look for them. The main highway was blocked after an accident and he told them to go through the corner of Yellowstone. He knows there is no cell service for part of it, but too much time has passed. Hoyt is in no condition to help out, but will do anything for his son, or for Gracie. With the help of his new partner, Cassie Dewell, he starts making phone calls.

In the course of her research, Dewell finds a patter of young women disappearing in the area. The FBI has put together a task for on a possible long-haul trucker / serial killer who operates in the area.

Box has written a story that will keep readers on edge until the last page. If you like suspense with a bit of creepy this is the book for you.

Box, C.J. (2013). The Highway. NY: Minotaur Books.

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29 August 2019

The Dog Stars

The Dogs Stars by Peter Heller is a dystopian story about humanity post-sickness and what people will do to survive.

Hig and Bangley now live at a small airport near Denver. Hig is a pilot who flies over the wide fields surrounding their home to make sure no other survivors are trying to sneak up on them. Hig thinks of Bangley as a gun-happy survivalist who, for some reason, thinks they work well together. Their uneasy friendship gives them both a better chance of survival. 

It has been nine years since the sickness and then the bloods that killed most people. In the first couple of years after they found the airport, Hig and Bangley had to defend themselves against armed groups a few times. Now Hig sleeps, not in the house with electricity, but being a berm in the field with his dog Jasper. The house with the lights is the easy target that allows them time to react to anyone sneaking in. 

For as long as the fuel lasts, Hig will fly. He figures he has a while left before the rest goes bad, and then there are additives to extend its life. He uses the plane, not only to scout, but to visit the Mennonite families with the blood disease to trade vegetables, and to the highway as a treat to pick up cases of soda from a crashed semi on the highway.

But Hig cannot get out of his head that twice he has heard a radio response from Grand Junction.  

Heller has written an award-winning novel of dystopian fiction. This book will keep readers on edge, worried about what will happen to Hig. And Heller’s writing is so beautiful. Read all of his books. 

Heller, Peter. (2012). The Dog Stars. NY: Alfred A Knopf.

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17 August 2019

Back of Beyond (Cody Hoyt #1)

Back of Beyond by C.J. Box is the first book in his mystery / suspense series featuring Police Inspector Cody Hoyt. Hoyt is likely in his last chance job as a police officer. He is brilliant at solving crimes when he puts his mind to it, but his mind is often more focused on drinking, or not drinking.

When the Helena dispatcher sends Cody to a remove mountain cabin where hikers found a half-burned building with what looks like a person, Cody is afraid he knows who lives there. It is his AA sponsor and friend. While the scene looks like an accidental fire, he is convinced it was murder.

Once he tries to convince his fellow detective it is a crime scene, the forensic team goes to work. One clue, the website last up on the man’s computer, leads Cody to decide that the killer is using an outdoor, five-day horseback through Yellowstone to evade the investigation. Unfortunately, if he is right, it may be the same trip Hoyt’s son is on with his potential new stepfather.

Box has created a terribly flawed cop for whom readers will still root. And a secondary character who readers will be glad to see again in the next book, fourteen-year-old Gracie Sullivan who is on the adventure with her sister and father. The details can be a bit gruesome, but this is a great mystery for anyone who likes the outdoors. Readers of Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series will enjoy the scenery. 

Box, C.J. (2011). Back of Beyond. NY: Minotaur Books.

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15 August 2019

Celine: A Novel

Celine by Peter Heller is a lovingly written mystery.

Celine is a private investigator and artist living in Brooklyn. She is a mother and grandmother who only takes cases about missing people. Between cases she creates art with found things and dodges her boyfriend’s attempts to make her eat vegetables.

When a fellow alumna reads an article about Celine in their college magazine, she thinks she has found the women to help her find her missing father. Gabriela’s father was a photojournalist who when missing or was killed by a grizzly bear on the Montana / Wyoming border. Celine and her boyfriend, Pete, fly across the country, borrow a truck with a camper, and try to follow the man’s footsteps.

Interspersed with flashbacks to Celine’s childhood, told sometimes by her and sometimes by an adult son who has great affection for his mother, this mystery is about family, loss and hope. Heller is an adventure writer for outdoor magazines, a nonfiction and fiction author, along with being a poet. The combination leads to wonderful books in which readers sometimes pause to marvel in the beauty of the word choices while still inhaling the story. Celine is especially moving as the main character is based on his own mother. If you only ready one book this year, make it this one. If you read a lot, buy it so you can read it again later!

Heller, Peter. (2017). Celine: A Novel. NY: Knopf.

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09 August 2019

Long Road to Mercy (Atlee Pine #1)

Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci is the first book in the Atlee Pine mystery/thriller series. Pine if an FBI agent in the Southwest. She became an agent with the idea that it would help her eventually find out what happened to her twin sister Mercy, who was kidnapped when they were six. Her life has been devoted to getting strong and smart to make up for not being able to save Mercy.

Atlee Pine does not like crowds. In fact, she has gotten herself assigned to a one-agent FBI office at the edge of the Grand Canyon. The only person she works with is her secretary Carol Blum.

When a man disappears from a Canyon mule expedition, Pine is called to investigate. Little does she know that this man is the key to an international conspiracy to usurp the pecking order of global leaders. All she knows at first is someone gut a donkey and the man who is missing is either a sick bastard or was kidnapped.

Baldacci has written a book that crosses many genres: mystery, thriller, suspense and espionage. Atlee Pine is a focused, strong character who is understandably obsessed with finding her sister. His books are always great for a fast, thrilling read.

Baldacci, David. (2019). Long Road to Mercy. New York: Grand Central Publishing.

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06 August 2019

The New Girl (Gabriel Allon #19)

The New Girl by Daniel Silva is the nineteenth book in his Gabriel Allon espionage series. If you have not started this series yet, start today!

 At an exclusive private school in Switzerland, a girl begins the term late. She is quite and a bit different than the other students. First of all she has her own security even though the school has its own – many children of important people attend this school. Secondly, one teacher thinks the girl is not who she says she is; not even her name seems real. Then the girl is gone.

 Sarah Bancroft manages the Nadia Al-Bacari collection at the Met. When a wealthy collector she has worked with reaches out to her it is not to buy a painting. It is to set up a meeting between him and Gabriel Allon. Somehow Khalid ben Mohammed, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, knows that Sarah is former FBI and has worked with Allon. KBM is desperate to meet a man whom most in Saudia Arabia think is the devil. Because his daughter has been kidnapped.

 Silva is a masterful storyteller. Readers are hooked by the end of the first paragraph. This is on of the best fiction series, hands down.

 Silva, Daniel. (2019). The New Girl. New York: Harper.

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27 July 2019

The River

The River by Peter Heller is a peaceful boat ride through a series of lakes...until it is not.

Wynn and Jack have one month to traverse a series of lakes and a river ending in Hudson Bay in northern Canada. They both love to fish, canoe, and be in nature. They have allotted themselves more time than it should take so they can enjoy the peace and solitude.

During a foggy evening, they hear a man and woman arguing from the shore. They give the couple a wide berth so not to intrude.

The next day, in the next lake, the wind shifts and Wynn and Jack smell smoke. Jack climbs a tree and sees a huge forest fire racing toward them. No more taking their time.

They agree to warn the couple they passed, but when they go back to the previous lake they cannot find anyone. The make up the lost miles and camp at the top of the first set of falls on the river.

Before they carry their boat and supplies down the trail to the bottom of the large waterfall, they see a man in a canoe. He is alone and looks lost. When they call him over - saving him from going over the falls - he is disoriented and confused. Is he the same man from the couple? If so, where is his wife?

Heller writes beautifully. His story flows like a river. He makes readers want to paddle this set of lakes even in spite of the second half of the book where there may be a killer and there is definitely a huge forest fire coming for the characters. This is a great read that will fly by but and stick with you for a while. A perfect summer read.

Heller, Peter. (2019). The River. New York: Alfred A Knopf.

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26 July 2019

Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II

Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff is the tale of a series of plane crashes in Greenland near the end of WWII. As well as the current day plan to recover a Grumman Duck amphibious airplane lost on the ice with three Coast Guard men.

In WWII the United States had bases in Greenland, both to keep the Atlantic free of German boats and U-boats and used as a stop while ferrying planes to England. When a cargo plane goes down on the Ice Cap, a few search planes are sent to look for it. These planes include a B-17 bomber with 9 on board. Instead of finding sign of the cargo plane, the B-17 crashes. What follows is a series of rescue attempts in a climate not made for man or machine.

The B-17 will not be the last plane to crash in the Winter of 1942-1943. An amphibious plane called the Grumman Duck will also become lost – after one successful rescue of part of the crew of the B-17.

In 2012 an expedition back to Greenland was approved by the Coast Guard to find the Duck and bring back the missing men – the only MIA Coast Guardsmen unaccounted for. Zuckoff attaches himself to the expedition, becoming a subject in his own book.

The tale of the men trapped on the Ice Cap is one with the suspense of how and if they will survive. Zuckoff’s nonfiction tale flows with the narration of a good novel. If you are a fan of WWII, planes, extreme lands or daring rescues, this is the book for you!

Zuckoff, Mitchell (2014). Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II. New York: Harper.

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22 July 2019

The Stories You Tell (Roxane Weary #3)

The Stories You Tell by Kristen Lepionka is the third book in her mystery series featuring private detective Roxane Weary.

When Roxane’s brother calls her in the middle of the night, she is not too surprised. They are both night owls. He tells Roxane that an ex-co-worker he has not seen in a couple of years just came to his apartment. She was clearly scared. She borrowed his phone and then ran out the door. He wants to hire Roxane to make sure Addison is okay.

When Roxane starts to look for Addison Stowe, she finds that the place she works – a seedy club called Nightshade – is mysteriously closed. Her roommate has not seen her but thinks she can home after seeing Roxane’s brother, and Addison’s best friends have not heard from her.

Lepionka weaves a mystery about the people we are in real life versus the online presence we present to the world. Her characters are wonderful and flawed. Her storytelling is addictive, and her mysteries are well thought out. These are great summer reads. Readers will follow Weary on all of her future adventures.

Lepionka, Kristen. (2019). The Stories You Tell. New York: Minotaur.

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06 July 2019

The Huntress

The Huntress by Kate Quinn is a brilliant novel of espionage, war, and revenge.

Ian Graham was a war correspondent during WWII. After the war he has become a Nazi hunter. All of the people who took part in the genocide, who need to be held accountable even though many are tired of hearing about the war, still need to face a court room. Graham has found a few, with the help of his partner Tony – a US soldier from Queens, New York.

The person Ian needs to find, known as the Huntress, or die Jägerin, is a woman who murdered many during the war. Including Ian’s brother, a pilot who escaped a German POW camp. Nina Markova, a Russian pilot from Siberia, was with Ian’s brother when he was killed. She has sworn to hunt down the Huntress and avenge his death. No one has heard a word about the Huntress since the end of the war.

Jordan McBride is a high school student and photographer. She dreams of being a photojournalist. She lives in Boston with her father who owns an antique store. When her father brings a woman he is interested in home to dinner, Jordan is happy for him. But there is something unsettling about the soft-spoken, German-accented woman.

Quinn is an amazing storyteller. If you have not read this book, buy it today! Go now! The story, the twists and turns, the characters, are all crafted into the best book you will read this year.

Quinn, Kate. (2019). The Huntress. New York: William Morrow.

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27 May 2019

What You Want to See (Roxane Weary #2)

What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka is the second book in her mystery series featuring Roxane Weary, PI.

Weary is hired by Arthur Ungless to follow his fiancé. He is sure she is having an affair. After a week of following Marin with no sign of infidelity, Arthur's check bounces.

The first night Roxane is not following her, Marin is killed on the street. The police think it is an open and shut case - the fiancé must have done it.

Weary is sure that Arthur is innocent. He promises to get her the money if she will help him find out who killed Marin.

Digging into Marin's past, Weary is sucked into the underworld of the city, Roxane is told to drop the case - both by the police and a man she has never seen before. A man with an armed body guard.

Lepionka is a great story teller. Read this wonderful series.

Lepionka, Kristen. (2018). What You Want to See. New York: Minotaur.

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17 May 2019

The Last Place You Look (Roxane Weary #1)

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka is the first book in her mystery series featuring private eye Roxane Weary.

Roxane is a PI whose father was a cop. He died recently and she has not been doing well since. But she is still taking on jobs - she always had a knack for finding things.

Sarah Cook has been missing for years. Her high school boyfriend, Brad Stockton, is on death row for killing her parents and her. He has maintained his innocence.

As Brad is scheduled for execution, his sister is sure she has seen Sarah in Belmont, a neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. She hires Roxane to find out if the woman was really Sarah.

Lepionka has created a wonderful, flawed character readers will love. They story is well crafted with twists no one will see coming. This is a great series - perfect for a summer read.

Lepionka, Kristen. (2017). The Last Place You Look. New York: Minotaur.

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03 May 2019

The American Agent (Maisie Dobbs #15)

The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear is the 15th book in her mystery series featuring Maisie Dobbs - an investigator and psychologist.

Maisie is asked to investigate the murder of an American reporter, Catherine Saxon. One of Edward R Murrow's reporters sending news back to the US from England during World War II.

The last article Saxon wrote was about British volunteers - after spending the night with Maisie and her best friend Priscilla - driving an ambulance through an attack by German planes.

Winspear's Maisie Dobbs is one of the best fictional characters written. She should be listed on all lists of classics. If you are not yet reading this series, start today!

Winspear, Jacqueline. (2019). The American Agent. New York: Harper.

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25 April 2019

The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is the story of two sisters in France during World War II.

France, 1939. Vianne Mauriac is about to say goodbye to her husband who has been call on to fight for France against a possible German invasion in the East. They have a daughter Sophie and live in the small town of Carriveau.

Isabelle Rossignol, Vianne's sister, is about to leave another boarding school. She has been kicked out of or run away from a few. Her family abandoned her after her mother died - first her father, and then her sister. But she keeps running back to Paris to try to have a family.

When Isabelle gets to Paris, her father sends her to her sisters. The Germans are invading and she will be safer outside of the city. But most of the city is fleeing, and the family she is sent with has no concern for her, only their own family.

When Vianne and Isabelle listen to first the new Vichy government leader (who says to be peaceful and let the Nazis take over) and then the WWI general de Gaulle (who says to stay rebellious), the sisters react in opposite ways. Isabelle immediately wants to help fight the occupation in any way possible. Vianne just wants to keep her daughter safe.

Hannah's book is a force. Beautifully written and crafted, this is both a triumph against they system and a heartbreaking tale (partly because it is so true of the time period). Read this book. Do not finish it in public - there will be crying!

Hannah, Kristin. (2015). The Nightingale. New York: St. Martin's Press.

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14 April 2019

Sword of the Guardina (Ithyris #1)

Sword of the Guardian by Merry Shannon is the first book in her two book series set in the land of Ithyris.

Talon and her two sisters live with a group of traveling performers. They were sold to the group after their land was raided. As the oldest, Talon does everything she can to protect her sisters - including living as a man.

When performing for the twin prince and princess's sixteenth birthday, Talon dives in front of a knife thrown at Princes Shasta - partly to save her sister.

When the royal healer discovers Talon's secret, he has an idea. Talon can be a personal guard and stay with the princess at all times - something no other guard has been able to due.

While at first Talon does not see much to like about the princess, the more they spent time together, the more they start to understand each other. The princess will need all of the help she can get as she travels the circles of politics, danger and unwanted suitors.

Shannon has written a fun, memorable fantasy book with plot twits, assassins and love. This is a great summer read.

Shannon, Merry. (2006). Sword of the Guardian. New York: Bold Strokes Books.

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06 April 2019

Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers #3)

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers is the third book in her Wayfarers series. Start reading this series today!

When the Exodans left Earth, they set up ships for people to live in for generations. When the ships reached other sapients, those aliens gave them a faded sun to orbit. Many of the humans on the ships stayed instead of moving planet-side.

Every thing on the ships is recycled or reused. They were set up not knowing if there would ever be a way to restock materials. Now they can get supplies from outside, but it is a way of life to not waste.

An alien is coming to the ships, to study humans and see this isolated way of life in person. Isabel, the archivist whose job it is to record all important moments for the future, will be xyr guide.

Tessa (sister to the Captain of the Wayfarer in the first book) is raising two children - one of whom is terrified that the ship will blow up any moment and subject her to the vacuum of space.

Eyas is a caretaker. She is in charge of both funerals and preparing and composting the body, which is then used in the gardens to sustain new life.

Kip is a teen who must soon decide on a job within the fleet. He is pushing at boundaries as all teen do, regardless of where they live.

Sawyer is fed up with the planet he lives on and is going to move to the fleet his ancestors came from.

Together this cast of characters tells the story of humans in space. This is a lovely tale of humans finally working together for the greater good. Chamber is a masterful storyteller. Even if you are not a fan of science fiction, this series is about the people (human or otherwise) and how they interact. It is a beautiful series.

Chambers, Becky. (2018). Record of a Spaceborn Few. New York: Harper Voyager.

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26 March 2019

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarer #2)

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers is the second book in err Wayfarers science fiction series. This is a great series - even if you do not think you like science fiction!

Pepper is called by her friend to come to the ship and try to save the AI. But by save, the crew means, bring back the developed personality called Lovely who has been with them for years. When she cannot she moves the AI to a body kit.

AI are not allowed to live as sapient beings. Being in possession of a body kit will both get the AI killed and the sapient arrested. However, Pepper has a soft spot for AIs.

Told in two times - Lovelace in a body she was not designed for, trying to pass as a human and Pepper growing up on a factory planet - this is a heartfelt tale of how sapients adapt to their settings.

Chambers writes characters that readers will fondly remember for a long, long time. Her books are so good - start reading her today!

Chambers, Becky. (2016). A Closed and Common Orbit. New York: Harper Voyager.

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