Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke

This is the second book in the Highway 59 series. Darren Matthews returns with a new case to solve— the disappearance of the 10 year old son of the leader of a white supremacist organization that Darren and the Texas Rangers have been investigating for years. As the novel opens Darren has been reinstated in his job as a Texas Ranger, but is working at a desk in Houston. He doesn’t stay there long though. Soon enough he is headed out to another small Texas town, awash in avowed white supremacists, racists, and a little known settlement of native Americans and the descendants of people who escaped from slavery.

As Darren investigates the disappearance of the little boy he is drawn further and further into generations old grievances. He also continues to struggle in his marriage, with his alcoholism and ultimately, with his ethics. There is a revelation at the end of this novel that throws everything Darren thought he knew into doubt.

Darren is a deeply flawed but also deeply relatable character. Attica Locke does an amazing thing with her writing— she draws a character that consistently makes decisions that should make you either hate him or pity him but you don’t. Every step of the way she gives you reasons to empathize with him. And you do. Or at least I did. Ever since I finished this, I keep checking to see if the next novel is on its way.

With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Emoni is 17, she is in her senior year of high school, she lives with the grandmother who raised her and is raising her daughter, Emma. Emoni’s passion in life is cooking and she has a real talent for combining flavors. However, as she and her grandmother and her daughter all have to survive on her grandmother’s disability check and the little money Emoni brings home from her job working part time at a fast food restaurant, she doesn’t know how she will be able to take care of her daughter and also continue on to college. She also has to continue to negotiate with her daughter’s father about all of the things that single mothers deal with— money, shared parenting, different parenting styles and her relationship with her daughter’s other grandparents. Emoni is incredibly mature— sometimes a little too mature. She almost never acts like a teenager. I recognize that she is supposed to be wise beyond her years because having a baby made her grow up fast but she was certainly drawn more as an adult in a teenager’s skin than a teenager dealing with multiple traumas in her life. In addition, her toddler daughter is almost universally sweet and not at all like my toddler was.

This novel is really lovely in spite of those minor complaints. Emoni’s relationship with her best friend is loyal supportive and the slow burn romance that develops between Emoni and a classmate is a model of respect. This book also features recipes at the beginning of some of the chapters and that is my catnip. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the food Emoni makes, and the descriptions of her making it. As someone who really enjoys cooking, I can totally relate to Emoni’s stress baking/cooking. Through everything that Emoni has to navigate, she has a loving and supportive network of family and friends and Emoni herself is truly likeable.

The House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

This is a horror retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. The princesses do indeed dance through their shoes at mysterious midnight balls in Salten but they and others around them keep dying. As the story opens the sisters are attending the funeral of the third oldest of them— the other two eldest having already died. This sister fell to her death while taking a midnight walk during a storm along a precarious cliff path. While everyone else thinks that her death is a tragic accident, Annaleigh, now second eldest, thinks otherwise. Annaleigh embarks on a quest to find out what happened to Eulalia and that begins the sisters’ decent into horror and eventually madness.

This book is set in a fantasy world peopled with immortal gods in the fashion of the Greed gods— they have a physical form and appear when they choose to the mere mortals that worship them. They also take human lovers and so there are half-gods and demigods as to contend with. Salten is an island kingdom (dukedom, really) and the atmosphere is wet and stormy much of the time. I liked the horror aspects of this novel— which are both physical and psychological. The only storyline that I found underwhelming was the romance that pops up about a third of the way through between Annaleigh and another character. I didn’t find the romance believable.

As the novel wraps up everything is revealed and, if not put to rights, then to an appropriate end. If you like your YA with a little gore then this is definitely for you.

The Martian by Andy Weir

This book was really, really funny. Mark Watney is an almost perpetually buoyant astronaut accidentally abandoned on Mars by his crew. I listened to this book on audio and Wil Wheaton’s narration is spot on. This book is laugh out loud funny and I really appreciated that at this moment in time.

I felt like this book was custom made for Hollywood adaptation. It’s funny. There is a man alone in space. He’s a self-deprecating botanist trapped on a planet, running out of food, with nothing to watch but 70’s tv shows (Sanford and Son and Three’s Company), nothing to listen to but disco and nothing to read but Agatha Christie novels. He is beset by problem after problem, all of them potentially fatal, and the whole world is watching. Every time I was pulling for Mark Watney, and while I knew the outcome from watching the movie, I still enjoyed the journey. This was really the best.

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

This was a long, long, slow, burn and the set up is ridiculous. Laurie is on the bus headed home from her dead end job when she sees a man standing at the bus stop. It’s love at first glance. She spends the next year looking for him around every corner until her best friend comes home with him— her new boyfriend, Jack. What follows is several years of back and forth between Laurie, who never stops being secretly in love with Jack, and Jack, who is also secretly in love with Laurie.

After the first 100 pages I thought I was really going to hate this book by the end— the set up was unbelievable and the idea that Laurie spends a year hung up on a guy she saw once through a bus window and then instantly recognizes him when her best friend brings him home— was just too unbelievable. Then it grew on me. The writing is very good and while I still find the entire premise more of a fairy tale than real life, I really enjoyed this book. It was also much darker than the set up would suggest. Jack and Laurie and their group of friends are real people with very real problems and, as this book takes place over the course of a decade, there is plenty of space to explore them. Josie Silver gives us the ugly parts of her characters in addition to the good.

The HEA here is the most Hollywood movie rom-com ending ever. By the time you get there, you really deserve it.

One Day in December by Josie Silver

This was a long, long, slow, burn and the set up is ridiculous. Laurie is on the bus headed home from her dead end job when she sees a man standing at the bus stop. It’s love at first glance. She spends the next year looking for him around every corner until her best friend comes home with him— her new boyfriend, Jack. What follows is several years of back and forth between Laurie, who never stops being secretly in love with Jack, and Jack, who is also secretly in love with Laurie.

After the first 100 pages I thought I was really going to hate this book by the end— the set up was unbelievable and the idea that Laurie spends a year hung up on a guy she saw once through a bus window and then instantly recognizes him when her best friend brings him home— was just too unbelievable. Then it grew on me. The writing is very good and while I still find the entire premise more of a fairy tale than real life, I really enjoyed this book. It was also much darker than the set up would suggest. Jack and Laurie and their group of friends are real people with very real problems and, as this book takes place over the course of a decade, there is plenty of space to explore them. Josie Silver gives us the ugly parts of her characters in addition to the good.

The HEA here is the most Hollywood movie rom-com ending ever. By the time you get there, you really deserve it.

Wednesday’s Sweater: Glasgow Sweater

I love this sweater. This is really one of my favorite projects of all time. I love the yarn, I love the color of the yarn and I love the chunky cabling of the sweater. Most of all I love how warm it is. This sweater is the kind of warm that you can wear it outside when it’s so cold your sweat freezes to your face and still be warm. This is also the only flaw. I have to wait until the dead of winter to wear it or I get sweaty and hot in it.

Pattern: Glasgow Sweater by Andrea Sanchez

Yarn: Malabrigo Twist in Manzanilla Olive

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

This is an intergenerational mystery that spans three generations and time periods. Eliza lives in London and then on the Coast of England in the early 1900’s. Nell is found abandoned in an Australian port in 1913 and grows up there. In 1975 she sets out to find out who her parents were. Cassandra is Nell’s granddaughter and she decides to finally solve the mystery of Nell’s parentage, in 2005.

I enjoyed this book but it did have some shortcomings. I figured out the answer to mystery (although not the whys and hows) from almost the very beginning of the book. The book continuously hints at some very dark secret, but doesn’t entirely deliver on that. There is also one occasion when Nell refuses to ask an obvious question. That annoyed me to no end. Finally, I didn’t think that the development of the relationship between Eliza and her cousin Rose was given enough space in the book. By the time they are both adults, their relationship is one of enmeshment. There isn’t really anything that precedes this total devotion to really explain it. I think if the author had made the book longer or had cut out one of the parallel narratives she could have expanded on the depth of that relationship. As it is, I found Eliza’s complete devotion to Rose baffling. This was exacerbated by Eliza’s characterization as an independent person. All of that said, this was compulsively readable. I listened to it on audiobook and the narration was also quite good.

I like a mystery and there was plenty of mystery here. I like narratives that focus on the lives of women and there are five female characters that drive the narrative. There are the beginnings of a romance at the end here too but it’s not the focus at all. This book is long and dark and twisty. It’s worth picking up if intergenerational family secrets and mystery are your thing.

Butterflies and Flowers

Completely finished

This time of year all I want to do is draw and embroider and create pretty things. I love flowers, so I usually spend a lot of time drawing flowers. I love butterflies too so that’s another favorite subject for me. This bookmark is the result of plenty of brainstorming and sketching. I get inspiration from a lot of places— I stop to take pictures of flowers on my run in the spring and I also look at pictures on instagram and Pinterest. I steal liberally from both places for project inspiration.

Finished, but not washed or ironed

I really love every part of the process— from sketching, to picking out fabric and thread to embroidering the pattern. It’s all very satisfying.

Outline and a partially finished butterfly

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

I was granted access to this ARC through netgalley. It won’t be published until October 6. I was super excited to read this. I like horror and had heard good things about T. Kingfisher’s writing. I was really expecting to be terrified when I read this novel. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.

The protagonist of the story— Kara— is going through a divorce when she moves into the spare room in her uncle’s roadside Wonder Museum. Shortly after agreeing to run the shop while her uncle is recuperating from knee surgery, she finds a portal to another world. The world is creepy. The world is filled with supernatural beings. When she returns to our world, she finds that she can’t stay away from that other world. So, the book is creepy but not even in a really spine-tingling sort of way. I was only horrified during one or two scenes. The other disappointing element in the storytelling was that the lynchpin of the whole “how did a portal to another world open up in the Wonder Museum?” was pretty easy to spot. I was annoyed that Kara didn’t figure it out much sooner.

That being said, Kara and her friend, Simon, are both funny and witty and enjoyable to spend some time with. The situation that they find themselves in is mind bending. The supernatural forces are persistent. There are some truly funny and heartwarming and relatable exchanges between Kara, her ex husband, her mother and her uncle. If you go into this novel with the expectation that it will be mildly creepy with some gore and body horror and also funny, then you won’t be disappointed.