Weekend Reads: The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum

I was in the mood for good cozy mysteries this month, and I embarked on a marvelous new series.  Here’s my review of the first entry:

The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum (Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum #1)The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was in the mood for a good cozy mystery and remembered that author Kirsten Weiss had a new series. This is the first book, and I’m hooked.

Newly unemployed Maddy Kosloski has returned to her California home town, San Benedetto, and she’s commiserating with her girlfriends Harper and Adele. Adele is opening a tea room in the building she’s inherited … the other half of which houses the town’s paranormal museum. She convinces Maddy to run the museum while she’s looking for other work. The three go to the museum — and find a dead body!

Thus begins the tale that introduces us to some of the more interesting folks in Maddy’s town, like the Ladies’ Aid Society people who want the museum closed, and the hunky motorcycle shop owner, Mason, who lives above the museum. Oh, and GD (“Ghost Detecting”) Cat, who lives in the museum itself.

The characters make the story fun and keep you reading as Maddy tries to find out who not only killed the victim at the beginning of the book, but the truth about a long-cold case in the town — a case that involves a haunted photo in the museum.

I thought the book was fun and entertaining, and I’ve already started reading the second book in the series, Pressed to Death

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Weekend Reads: The Language of Silence

It’s taken me a little bit to get back in the swing of things after the Blogging from A to Z juggernaut! Before I do anything else, I wish to thank and welcome all of my new readers.  I hope you will enjoy my writing.  I have a few semi-regular features, which you’ll find in the Categories list.  Weekend Reads is one of them.  With that, here’s this week’s review:

The Language of SilenceThe Language of Silence by Peggy Webb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the very first page, I was enchanted by this book. There is no other way to describe it. Each character’s voice was so distinct, and Webb’s prose so evocative, that I wanted to spend the day doing nothing but entering the world created here.

Ellen is fleeing an abusive husband, so she goes to her elderly aunt Ruth for help. Together, the two of them run away to join the circus — just as Ellen’s grandmother had done decades before.

As Ellen begins to feel at home in her new family, her husband is looking for her … and Ruth’s having visions that show how it will all turn out.

While this could have been just another tale with paranormal overtones, instead this is a look at family dynamics and the real nature of love, revealed in each circus performer’s own hidden secrets.

There are a good many twists and turns in this book that keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat, rooting for Ellen and Ruth to triumph.

Absolutely to-notch literary fiction, and highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird LaneThe Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have become such a fan of Lisa See‘s writing that I don’t hesitate to pick up her books as soon as they’re released. This book was no exception, and I’ve enjoyed every word of it.

Li-yan is an Akhu (Chinese ethnic minority) living in a small, impoverished mountain village. Her sole inheritance is a well-hidden tea tree, and she doesn’t think much of it. She would rather have silver, and a fine home.

Li-yan falls in love with San-pa, whom her family thinks is an inappropriate match — and then Li-yan becomes pregnant. She doesn’t tell San-pa, who has gone to Thailand for work while she plans to take the secondary school exam to improve their future.

Li-yan leaves her daughter at an orphanage in a town to which she walks over the course of three days, but she never stops thinking of her. And it is through the eyes of Haley (who is adopted by an American Family) and Li-yan that we see the rest of the story.

Touching not only on tea lore and science, but on the roles of women, the results of China’s One Child policy, and the outcomes of Communist rule, See brings us into a world that will both shock and inform the reader. The characters are well-developed, fully human, and interesting. I delighted in every page of this book and recommend it highly.

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Weekend Reads: “Brooklyn on Fire”

Brooklyn on Fire (Mary Handley Mystery #2)Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mary Handley is trying to get her consulting detective business going after helping the police solve a murder, so she’s very excited when a woman comes in and asks for her help. She gets busy on the case, but there are some strange coincidences about it — coincidences involving two other murders. And all of those murders are somehow connected to Mary herself. Needless to say, she needs to find out what’s going on … while simultaneously trying to keep her romance with wealth George Vanderbilt going.

Author Lawrence Levy puts readers square in the middle of 1890s New York, with scenes ranging from Brooklyn tenements to upper crust mansions. Peopled with historic figures like Cornelius Vanderbilt and Andrew Carnegie, the book is rich with entertaining characters both real and invented.

We know “whodunnit” early on, but the how and why take a while to reel out and that keeps readers interested. Nicely done.

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Weekend Reads: “Strangers In Their Own Land”

This book was recommended by Ed Erickson, PhD, my co-author on the long out-of-print Born of War … Dedicated to Peace (my first book was a non-fiction military history work about Sixth U.S. Army).  It was far from being an easy read, but it was an enlightening one. I wound up including in the reference list for Bayou Fire as it dealt with some of the issues discussed in the text.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American RightStrangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

UC Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild decided that she wanted to find answers to a question that many progressives/liberals ask: why do conservatives vote against their own best interests? Hochschild refers to this as the Great Paradox.

She decided to pick one keyhole issue: the environment. Then, she looked at one of the most polluted areas in the United States, which also happened to be (by most measures) the most conservative: Louisiana’s Cajun country. So, she visited the region 10 times over five years to interview residents. A couple were progressives, but they had Tea Party friends to whom they could introduce her.

Hochschild’s interviewees included a man whose job it was to dump toxic sludge into the bayou, a man whose dream retirement home was destroyed by a sink hole directly attributable to environmental damage, and more. Every single one of the people affected the worst by environmental damage was a staunch conservative who voted along Republican party lines because they considered issues like abortion more important than the environment.

At the root of all of these decisions was what Hochschild called the deep story, which was about feelings. These voters, all of them white and older, felt that people were cutting ahead of them in line and telling them how they should feel about things: that they should be okay with black people, or LGBTQ people, or women, having equal rights to white men whether they felt that way or not.

Many of the interviewees, toward the end of the research cycle, were planning to vote for Trump because he told them that it was okay not to care about those people (I am summing up).

This was a disturbing and enlightening look into the mind of the typical cultural conservative. I felt a great deal of empathy and pity for this group of people who were seeing blue collar jobs go away … although they had opportunities to train to learn something different and chose not to. What I did not feel was sympathy. In fact, I found myself mentally yelling at people who were more concerned with telling themselves stories that felt good than looking at facts.

This book was recommended to me as a way to better understand Trump voters. I grew up in a rural part of Oregon, and lived around people with this kind of mindset for the majority of my life until I moved to a different state. I refer to that moving-away as an escape with good reason. So, yes. I have new insight … but I’m mad as hell at people who are willing to ignore the fact that they can’t swim in their lakes or fish in their bayous because of pollution, but will vote for a man who is going to make matters worse because he makes them feel good about their bigotry.

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