The Shell Collector by Hugh Howey

The Shell Collector by Hugh Howey

Well, human life has done it now. After years of a warming climate the seas of the world started to flood. New York City had to build levees to stop major flooding but that doesn’t mean that the streets of the city aren’t usually under a few inches of water. Instead of checking train schedules commuters now have to check the high tide schedule. Instead of carrying sneakers to change into when their high heels get uncomfortable women and men have to carry galoshes to protect their shoes from the water. Most people now drive electric cars instead of the older gas guzzlers but trying to make changes is now way too late. The oceans are dying. There are very few fish around any more and seashells are worth more than gold because they too are disappearing.

Ness Wilde is one of the people who did his best to destroy the oceans. His great grandfather started Ocean Oil, which Ness is now CEO of. Ocean Oil, along with the many other oil companies, did their best to kill the oceans thus causing the climate problems, flooding, and dying seas situation that humanity is now going through. Good work gents.

Ness isn’t just the CEO of Ocean Oil but is also the largest seashell collector. His family made a lot of money by buying islands and then grabbing all the shells they could find. The Wilde family aren’t the only people collecting shells, everyone is but Ness Wilde, by far, is kind of the shell collectors. But something about what’s happening at his huge home in Maine is not legal. Shells are a rare commodity now and most of them are not perfect. They have chips in them but are still quite expensive. But Ness’s shells are perfect. No chips at all. They look as if the mollusks that lived in them many years ago just recently moved out. Is Ness somehow creating fake shells that he can sell so he could make more money? This is the question the FBI is wondering about so they get journalist, Maya Walsh to investigate.

Maya, as a journalist with the Times wrote a series of articles about the Wilde family. The first article was published with the public clamoring to read the rest of them. Ness Wilde contacts Maya and says that he would like to give her an interview and invited her to his home in Maine for a few hours. The FBI who has been listening in on all of Ness’s phone calls contacts Maya and the Times and more or less tells Maya that she is the way the FBI is going to be able to get the goods on Wilde. Maya and her publication, not having much choice in the matter, agree to the FBI’s demands. She is wired for sound and sent into Wilde’s home to see what she can find. Little did Maya suspect what would happen next.

“The Shell Collector” by Hugh Howey was one terrific book at first. I loved reading what Global Warming did to the planet. Yes, I do believe that that the Earth is in big trouble because of what we’re doing but this is not supposed to be a rant about the environment but a book review. Howey did a great job in explaining why the seas were dying and presented a gloomy forecast that just might really happen. Sorry, didn’t mean to go back to my personal beliefs again.

The story was really interesting and pulled me in from the get go until the “love story” popped its evil head up. I know, I know, it was obvious that Ness and Maya would become romantically involved but I was wishing, hoping, and praying that this wouldn’t happen. But it did. Okay, I even understand that many publishers even try to get their authors to spin in a love aspect to their stories because love sells books, or so I’m told. But there had to have been a way for Howey to get to the end of this really good story without focusing in on Wilde’s and Walsh’s relationship. I don’t know, make them good friends or something without relying on the old facet that “love blinds.”

I will say that Howey did a really nice job writing as a woman. The story is told from Maya Walsh’s point of view and not many men can write from a female’s perspective.

Hugh Howey is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read many of his books and plan on reading more in the future it’s just that I wish he could have backed off from the love story plot line a little and added more about the environment.

“The Shell Collector” is worth reading and it’s very enjoyable even though I’m just not a romantic at heart. The ending is kind of a disappointment to me but, what do I know?  

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Halfway Home By Hugh Howey

Halfway Home By Hugh Howey

Many years ago The Colony sent up thousands of spacecrafts filled with “embryos” each genetically engineered to serve a specific purpose for when the spaceship landed on a new, viable planet. Some of the “embryos” were trained to be doctors, some engineers, some psychologists, teachers, scientists, and technicians. These “embryos” were trained on ship for their specific field as they slept. These people were born and would only be allowed to wake up when the ship landed on a planet. And they will be born as teenagers.

Many of the thousands of ships The Colony sent into space found new planets that the inhabitants were to develop. But other ships were aborted by The Colony because the planet they landed on was too dangerous. One of these aborted ships was destroyed by The Colony as it landed but for some reason the abort was canceled and out of over 600 “embryos” only 60 survived. It was up to these teenagers to settle the planet and do what they were trained to do.

But within a week things started to go bad. Some of the teens put themselves in charge of the group which lead to others being killed. Wanting to get away from the violence and tyranny a small group plans to escape from the camp and lead their lives their own way.

As they struggle to survive on this strange new planet they discover why The Colony first decided to abort the ship and why the plans were changed at the last moment.

“Halfway Home” by Hugh Howey is almost like a young adult novel. It can easily be read within a day and it was enjoyable enough, probably more so for a teen than for an adult. I was a little disappointed because I was expecting a story more like his incredible “Silo” series but once I got into “Halfway Home” I appreciated it for what it was.

The story line was interesting and I enjoyed reading about all the strange wildlife Howey dreamed up for this planet. There is a lot of social commentary included but it didn’t bother me although it was a bit obvious.

It’s a nice fast reading science fiction adventure story if you like something written for young adults.

The Book of Beloved (A Pluto’s Snitch Mystery) By Carolyn Haines

The Book of Beloved (A Pluto’s Snitch Mystery) By Carolyn Haines

It’s June 1920 and America has gone through some major changes and is on the brink of many more. The Civil War ended 60 years ago and on December 6, 1865, with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, slavery officially ended in this country. Women were now on the brink of being allowed to vote.

Two years earlier in 1918, World War I ended leaving many women without husbands. One of these women was 24 year old Raissa James, a school teacher living in Savannah, Georgia. Her husband, Alex, was killed in the Great War in 1918 and she’s been trying to get over the grief his death caused her. Her only living relative, her Uncle Brett Airlie living in Mobile, Alabama worries about Raissa and has invited her to spend some time with him during the summer.

Raissa hops on a train and soon meets Robert Aultman who is on his way to Mobile for a meeting about his shipping business. Coincidentally, his meeting is with Raissa’s uncle Brett who designs steam engines for paddle-wheelers. The two are thrilled to learn that Brett has also invited Robert to the big party he’s throwing for Raissa.

Uncle Brett’s huge home is named Caoin House which in Gaelic means lament or grieve. When Raissa once again sees the 64-room Antebellum house on its 7,000 surrounding acres she has no idea how apropos the house’s name is.

Raissa tells her uncle and some friends that she’s very interested in ghosts and the occult and would like to eventually become an author of ghost stories. To her amazement her uncle and friends are very supportive of her plans. Mobile, Alabama still feels that women are not strong enough to deal with the little details of life let alone become a writer of ghost stories. And even though slavery has be abolished, Mobile still treats black men and women as if they are second class citizens. It’s not a very progressive city.

Raissa learns a little about all the tragedies that have surrounded Caoin House. Many people have suspiciously died throughout the years and these souls are haunting Brett’s home. Brett has seen a female ghost and Raissa has seen a male ghost and there are other spirits as well, some who are very angry and dangerous. But neither Brett nor his niece are completely sure who is haunting the home or why but Raissa is determined to find out the truth about the history of the house and why the dead souls can’t rest in peace even if the process harms her, her uncle, and the friends she loves.

“The Book of Beloved” by Carolyn Haines is one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. From the very first page I was pulled into Raissa’s life, her beliefs, and her dreams. Ms. Haines beautifully explains what life was like in the south during 1920. Women had little if any rights and were ignored by men except to be their wives. If they asked any question they were threatened that their husbands would be told. That is if the women were acknowledged at all.

Blacks, unlike women, had the right to vote but were still treated as if they were slaves. Life was not easy back then and the author makes sure that readers understand that. It’s obvious that Ms. Haines does a ton of research for her stories which adds a wonderful tone of authenticity.

Ms. Haines weaves a complex tale of Raissa’s life in 1920 and the lives of those who lived in Caoin House when it was first built by Eli Whitehead for his wife Eva before the Civil War. All these lives, past and present, intertwine with each other.

And then there is the ghost story part to the tale. We aren’t talking Dean Koontz gruesome or even Stephen King’s horror. I think it more like Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw.” “The Book of Beloved” is frightening at times but not the kind of fright that will keep you up at night. It’s that kind of fear that compels you read as fast as you can to discover what is going to happen next.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Carolyn Haines will turn this into a new series. Raissa is definitely a character I need to read more about and join her in other ghostly adventures.

Not enough can be said about this prolific author. She’s won many awards that proves her talent. Give any of her books a try especially the Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery Series. But make sure to pick up a copy of “The Book of the Beloved” for a wonderful story about history, ghosts, the south, and love. It’s the perfect book to read any time of the year.

To see other reviews of Carolyn’s books go to Carolyn’s section in my blog.

TERROR IN TAFFETA by Marla Cooper

TERROR IN TAFFETA  by Marla Cooper

Wedding planner Kelsey McKenna is happy to be in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico with the Abernathy wedding party. The bride is beautiful and things are going well as long as you don’t remember that the bride’s mother is a royal pain at times. Soon the wedding will be over and Kelsey will be able to hightail it back to the US and plan the next wedding on her agenda. Things couldn’t look better.

The bride and groom are just about to declare their undying love for each other when one of the bridesmaids collapses. Kelsey, being the expert that she is, knows that a fainting bridesmaid in the middle of a wedding is never a good sign but she’s even more upset to discover that the bridesmaid hasn’t fainted. She’s died. Uh, oh, not good, not good at all. Things get even worse when the police tells the wedding party and guests not to leave the country because the bridesmaid was murdered.

Now Kelsey is stuck in Mexico with the bride’s family treating her as if she still works for them. The happy newlyweds are married, if not all that happy, so what more does Kelsey have to do? Not much except find a place for everyone to stay, try to calm down the very upset bride, and figure out why the police have arrested the bride’s sister. The police believe that the sister is the killer and Mrs. Abernathy demands that Kelsey find the real murderer and set her daughter free. Apparently, a wedding planner’s work is never done.

But there is one small good thing about being being forced to stay in Mexico. Her handsome pilot friend lives there and even though Kelsey is busy trying to solve the murder, there’s always time for a little romance in this beautiful little Mexican town, and Kelsey definitely finds the time.

I love a good cozy. TERROR IN TAFFETA, by Marla Cooper, might not be one of my favorite cozies but it isn’t really bad. It all depends on what you like in your stories. Romance is not one of the things I look for in a cozy. Don’t give me a plot with the girl and guy staring longingly into each other’s eyes, playing cute little games with each other, and don’t allude to any sex scenes.

The town of San Miguel de Allende is quaint, beautiful, and very romantic and the author describes the place beautifully. I mean, it sounds really nice especially if this were a romance novel but as a cozy aficionado I didn’t really care about the romance plot. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I kept saying. “Kiss, kiss, hug, hug, walk of shame, but what about the murder?” The poor sister of the bride is stuck in a Mexican jail, possibly surviving solely on cucarachas, while waiting for Kelsey to come through with her promise to find the real killer. It’s tough to find the killer when you’re lip-locked with a hunky pilot.

To be fair to Kelsey, she didn’t want to become a murder investigator and was forced into it by the very formidable Mrs. Abernathy but it was hard to feel much sympathy for her.

Thank goodness she had the wedding photographer with her who does a little computer hacking on the side. And there is that gift that the dead bridesmaid never gave to the happy couple that gives Kelsey a lead when one is needed. Between the photographer’s skills and the gift, Kelsey was able to do her job with little to no thanks to the very stubborn Mexican police.

TERROR IN TAFFETA is a good cozy. It held my interest and the Mexican town sounded lovely. The book was fun and kind of crazy in a nice way. While I’d give the romance a miss, I would read another book by Marla Cooper, especially if she concentrated on Kelsey the wedding planner/sleuth, rather than Kelsey in love.

“Killer Beach Reads” 22 Short Stories

“Killer Beach Reads” 22 Short Stories

Heaven can be described as lying on the beach with the hot sun warming the sand, sprawled out on a beach blanket, listening to the ocean, feeling the sea breeze, hearing the seagulls, and reading a great book filled with lots of cozy short stories. Well, heaven can be described like that to many but not to me. I can do without the sand and sea and especially the sun. All I need is the book filled with short stories and I’m happy.

Heaven to me is “Killer Beach Reads.” This is a book filled with 22 summer stories by some of my favorite authors, like Anna Snow and Catherine Bruns and some authors who are now on my favorite list, like Leslie Langtry.

All 22 of the short stories here are set in the hot summer time with loads of protagonists that have lots of different jobs, none of which is being a private investigator but they all end up becoming one by investigating a murder.

The first story pulled me into the book right away. In “Scout Camp Murder” I was introduced to my new favorite cozy author, Leslie Langtry. Ms. Langtry’s main character is Merry Wrath a former spy who was thrown out of the CIA, moved back to her hometown, and became a Girl Scout Leader of 14 little girls. Is it really her fault that some of the foreign agents from her spy days are out to get her? No. But with the help of her best friend, who is also her co-leader, and the 14 little scouts and their parents, Merry always gets out of trouble even though she finds dead bodies in many places including her Girl Scout camp.

I enjoyed this story so much I immediately read two books in the Merry Wrath series to see if a full book would be as good as a short story. They were.

In “A Killing in the Market” (Danger Cove Mysteries) by Gin Jones & Elizabeth Ashby a financial planner returns to her hometown and finds herself in the middle of a murder. A pepper farmer, who is allergic to red, green, and yellow peppers, is killed when one of his home-grown peppers is forced in his mouth. The financial planner helps find the murderer and makes a love connection while she’s at it.

“A Spot of Murder” by one of my favorite authors, Catherine Bruns, follows the main characters in her Cookies & Chance Mystery Series. Here fans of the series learn a little more background information on the bakers. Once again the women also get involved in a murder and help find the killer. Great little side story to the very good Cookies & Chance Mystery Series.

“Killer Beach Reads” also has some romance stories included. Usually I’m not a real fan of romance stories. I mean how can you believe all that love at first glance stuff? Reading about a former spy who’s now a Girl Scout Leader, now I can definitely wrap my mind around. Actually, I did like the romance stories in the book. The stories were basically cozies with hunky men filling in the story line. Okay, every so often you need man to round things out.

The best part of a book of short stories is that it gives you a chance to sample some authors you’ve never read before. You might even find a new favorite series.

Summer is here, the ocean is inviting, and the sand is, er, sandy. Grab your sunglasses,  a beach blanket, a bottle of cold water, and a copy of “Killer Beach Reads” and enjoy this big book of cozies. It has over 600 pages with plenty of stories to chose from. No need to read them in order, I didn’t.

Pick up a copy of “Killer Beach Reads” you’ll definitely have a good time reading the 22 stories in this wonderful book as you laze about in the summer sun.

Zoo 2 (Zoo #1.5) by James Patterson and Max DiLallo

Zoo 2 (Zoo #1.5) by James Patterson and Max DiLallo

Nothing good has happened to the world since we last saw civilization at the end of James Patterson’s “Zoo.” If anything the situation is far worse. Our main character, Jackson Oz, is living in the frozen waste land of Greenland along with his wife and son. It’s supposed to be safer there because of the cold but that doesn’t mean Oz and his family aren’t being attacked by polar bears and other cold weather animals.

Just when the attacks seem to be getting the best of Oz and his family he is called back to the United States to help scientists once again find some cure to the animal attacks.

Oz drops his wife and son off in Paris to stay with his in laws while he goes on to help save the human race. As he goes around the world some things are discovered. For instance, the animal attacks have decreased in some places and increased in others. But the worse thing the group has found out is that the disease is now spreading to humans. There are now people who are behaving like their animal counterparts and killing and eating other humans. Most interestingly, the animals are terrified of the new human species.What is going on and will Oz and the rest of his team be able to save the world?

I don’t know the answer to that question but I do know that this 160 page novella isn’t very satisfying. There are places where it drones on, other places that are exciting and a real page turner, and other interesting plot lines are skipped over. For instance, Oz’s wife and son are kind of taken hostage by a group of animal rights activists and some how the American government finds and rescues them. How? Beats me because the book just glides over the explanation. The reader is told what happens we are not a part of it.

It was exciting to read about the animal attacks and how they get into Oz’s in law’s apartment and what happened  then but most of the book is slow with the same old things being rehashed.

“Zoo 2” by James Patterson and Max DiLallo  is just okay in my opinion. I enjoyed “Zoo” much more because it took its time explaining the situation to the reader. I know that “Zoo 2” is not supposed to be a full book but is typical of some of Patterson’s novels, a fast read with not much to it.

I just wonder why it took two people to write it.

The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #1) by Susan Bernhardt

The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery #1) by Susan Bernhardt

 

The other day me and my best friends, Kay, Elizabeth, and Deirdre were on our way to Marissa’s Patisserie to partake in some of her delicious baked goods. Who’s afraid of calories? Not us. We walk everyday but go to Marissa’s only two or three times a week. Hey, a girl’s gotta eat. As we were walking Kay was telling us about what happened to her just before the big Halloween party in our town, Sudbury Falls. Her adventure had Elizabeth, Deirdre, and I speechless which is saying a lot.

Here’s what happened – Kay was on her way to the Halloween party that night when she happened to see someone dressed in a costume but not going in the direction of the party. So naturally Kay was wondering if there was a pre-party festivity going on so she followed that person to find out. Then she saw another person dressed in the same costume going in the same direction, away from the party location and sneaking into the back of an abandoned store.

Kay tiptoed in and saw six people, all in the same costume, standing in a circle around a man lying on the floor. Was that college professor Sherman Walters the group was surrounding? Was he sick? And did Kay recognize some of the voices of the people in the costumes? Al Stewart who worked at the post office? And was that Bill Murphy, Deputy Chief of Police of Sudbury Falls standing there looking at Sherman and not trying to help?

Well, our Kay is no dummy and thought she walked into some kind of strange movie starring Tom Cruise so she ran out of the store post haste. But the group heard her leave and gave chase after her. Good thing it was dark and she was faster than she thought she was and weaved in and out like a football player until she got back home hoping no one saw her. Now what was she going to do? She had to meet her husband, Phil, at the party and Elizabeth, Deirdre, and I would be wondering where she was. Plus it would look strange to the rest of Sudbury Falls if she didn’t show up especially if one of the people who hurt Sherman ended up at the party.

Kay knew she had to go if for anything else to see if she could figure out why Al and the Deputy Chief of Police were in the back of that store with the professor on the floor. Maybe she’d be able to figure out who the other costumed people were.

Well, Elizabeth, Deirdre, and I were fascinated by what Kay was telling us. We were also very afraid because the day after the Halloween party, as the three of us were taking out daily walk, we found the body of Sherman Walters, last seen by Kay lying on the floor surrounded by some suspicious people, lying by the edge of the river. He was dead and Dr. Anders, the county coroner, determined that Sherman died from accidental drowning. Drowning! Accidental! No way! He might have been drowned but the four of us were sure that it was not an accident. The professor was unconscious but alive when Kay saw him with the group the previous night. Something strange was going on in Sudbury Falls. We were all positive that the professor was murdered and no one was getting away with murder in our town. With Kay at the helm of the investigation, we were going to figure it all out even if it killed us. Which just might happen.

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. I wasn’t really there, I was reading the book, “The Ginseng Conspiracy” by Susan Bernhardt but I kind of wished I was with Kay, Elizabeth, and Deirdre which means that Susan Bernhardt is one good writer. Talk about drawing the readers into a story. The mystery is solid and even though Ms. Bernhardt intentionally lets the readers know who some of the bad guys are we don’t know who all of them are and that’s where the surprise factor comes in.

The storyline is nicely woven with nary a stitch out of place and there are quite a few tense moments where you can’t read fast enough to see what’s going to happen next.

There are some wonderful characters in the book which you easily become attached to. You know their strong points and their quirks which makes you almost want to scream at them for telling the wrong person some information. Elizabeth has such a big mouth sometimes but we all love her nonetheless.

Sudbury Falls is one of the main characters too. Did you know that it’s the ginseng capital of the world? I bet you didn’t but author Susan Bernhardt says it is so I believe it. It’s also a nice small town to live in. The people are friendly if you don’t count the Deputy Chief of Police, or the postal worker, and maybe a few others but most of the inhabitants are nice people. They’re all willing to help a friend out even if it means putting themselves in harm’s way.

There are lots of bad guys in “The Ginseng Conspiracy” and thankfully for Kay and her friends there are lots of good guys too. Take a trip to Sudbury Falls, hang out with the group, eat at Marissa’s Patisserie and save me some of her cranberry streusel tarts. They go so well with a good murder mystery.

For more about Susan Bernhardt’s books please see Susan’s section on my blog.