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Friday, September 7, 2018

Review - This Side of Murder

From the author of the fantastic Lardy Darby Mysteries comes this new historical mystery series set just after WWI.  I admit I was drawn to the book because I love the Lady Darby books and wanted to find out if this new series was as engrossing.

Author: Anna Lee Huber

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Kensington) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Verity Kent Mystery series

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy / Amateur Sleuth

Main Character: Verity Kent, widow of WWI Officer 

Setting: 1919, Umbersea Island England

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

"England, 1919. Verity Kent’s grief over the loss of her husband pierces  anew when she receives a cryptic letter, suggesting her beloved Sidney may have committed treason before his untimely death. Determined to dull  her pain with revelry, Verity’s first impulse is to dismiss the derogatory claim. But the mystery sender knows too much—including the fact that during the war, Verity worked for the Secret Service, something not even Sidney knew.  

Lured to Umbersea Island to attend the engagement party of one of Sidney’s fellow officers, Verity mingles among the men her husband once fought beside, and discovers dark secrets—along with a murder clearly meant to conceal them. Relying on little more than a coded letter, the help of a dashing stranger, and her own sharp instincts, Verity is forced down a path she never imagined—and comes face to face with the shattering possibility that her husband may not have been the man she thought he was. It’s a truth that could set her free—or draw her ever deeper into his deception . . ."  It appears the surviving members of the suspiciously disastrous Thirtieth are being killed off during the weekend.

Verity starts out rather reserved and too timid but finally finds her spunk and voice amid the social pariahs of the engagement party.   Max Westfield, Earl of Ryde, was briefly Sidney's commanding officer and takes a shine to Verity.  But can she trust him to help her with the growing questions surrounding Sidney's death and the growing question of the unit having a traitor?  Sidney or his memory, ever present as Verity mingles with his fellow officers and her grieving is just below the  surface, seems rather bland and lacked much fire in their relationship before he shipped off to war.  Walter Ponsonby and Beatrice are the engaged couple throwing the party.  Walter wants to please Beatrice and is absent-minded and put out by the murders while Beatrice seems to want to throw a successful society party to show she can.  The rest of the guests range between prickly and blatantly hostile.  Thus the suspects are plentiful.

The island setting and time period are faithfully recreated and provide a delicious backdrop for a weekend of murder and mayhem.  The plot grows more twisted as the story progresses and there are only a few slow moments (the beginning seems slow, but warms up after a little while).  The climax was a mixture of daring action and tense moments.  The wrap-up answered all the questions and left a new beginning for Verity so readers want to read the next book.  

There is a significant twist towards the end that I honestly wasn't happy with.  It was a whooper, but changed the story in a way I didn't appreciate.  I can't say more without spoilers.  I have to say that there were a few instances that Verity as the main character lost my interest, but was regained after a few pages.  I hope the romantic direction will be corrected in the next book (Treacherous is the Night due Sept 25th).  .  

Rating: Between Good and Excellent - a solid mystery with suspense and a few minor flaws in my way of seeing things :-)

Here is a short video with 10 Remarkable Facts about WWI

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Monday, September 3, 2018

National Read a Book Day

Its September already!  Dang the year seems to be flying past.  For U.S. readers, have a fantastic Labor Day, honoring the American labor movement.  Are you ready for some Pumpkin Spice everything, cooler temperatures, shorter daylight hours, and the display of fall colors?  I love fall.  It also means its time for the National Read a Book Day.

National Read a Book Day Sept 6, 2018

Incredible, but a Pew Research study says that 1 in 4 Americans hasn't a read a book in the past year.  The study can be found here (click here.)  

"The share of Americans who report not reading any books in the past 12 months has bounced around a bit since 2011, when Pew Research Center first began conducting surveys about book-reading habits. That year, 19% of adults reported not reading any books. The share of non-book readers hit a high point of 27% in 2015.

The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library."

Which makes National Read a Book Day so very important to encourage reading, share the joy of reading, and overall do the nation a good dead.  A well read populace is a healthier, better educated populace.

Jimmy Kimmel does his own investigation asking people 
on the street to name a book... any book.

ACTIVITIES to take part in the day

1. Read a book
"Maybe reading's not your thing. Maybe the last time you read a book was in school. (Maybe you didn't even read books in school.) But for National Read a Book Day, you can make an exception and thumb through a handbook about something that interests you. If you're a less reluctant reader, pick up that book you've been meaning to read and get to it! Whether you like print books you can hold in your hands or digital books you swipe across the screen, decide on something and read it. You'll be glad you did."

2. Donate books to your library
"Chances are you have a local public library, and chances are your library could use a helping hand. Though books have lost popularity of late, libraries do a lot of important work for their communities. Most libraries take donations and some will enlist volunteers to help with special events, community programs, and even daily library tasks. Donating books to your local library is a great way to share knowledge with your community, and book donations often help libraries flesh out their shelves."

3. Read to someone else
"As humans, we were meant to tell stories. Cultures around the world have storytelling traditions that date back centuries. When you get together with your friends, you likely share stories about what you've experienced since the last time you saw each other. We all use stories as our main method of communicating with the world. But whether you're telling a personal anecdote or you're reading a book aloud, sharing a story with someone else is known to reinforce bonds and strengthen relationships overall. For National Read a Book Day, you could read to your children, your parents, grandparents, or volunteer at a school, library, or senior center." 

4.  Post on FB, Twitter, Instagram, or do a Youtube video about the day and share what you are reading for the day.

5.  If you have a blog, do a post on the day and it's importance.

6.  Buy a book (whether print, ebook, or audio) and give it to a friend, or two - hopefully one you think they will enjoy and get hooked on reading.  

7.  Support literacy programs in your town.  You can often find one at your local library.

8.  Find out if your library or school system has a "Paws to Read" program where dogs (and in some cases cats) are used to listen to children read aloud.  It provides practice without the risk of ridicule or embarrassment for the child.  If so, see if you can bring a dog or support in another way.


A. Books are troves of knowledge
"Before the internet, books were the main means of storing, accessing, and spreading knowledge. And while the internet is amazing and efficient and better than books in a lot of ways, there are some compelling reasons to keep books around. First off, books don't require a battery and you can access their data during a power outage. There is no server providing books with their information, so it is always ready, right at your fingertips. Books travel without cords or adapters, and while storage of books requires a lot more space than digital storage, a lot of people still prefer to read books in print rather than ebooks on a screen."

B. Reading makes you healthier
"Studies show that people who read frequently show less signs of stress and higher problem solving abilities than people who don't. Reading also improves your language comprehension, critical thinking, and communication skills. Frequent readers tend to be more aware of cultural differences and social issues, and they also tend to be more compassionate and understanding. While reading a good book is no substitute for a trip to the doctor, National Read a Book Day promotes awareness for all the physical and mental benefits to reading."

C. It reminds us to keep reading
"We're not really a society of readers, but reading is important. In our high-speed era of video clips and SnapChat, books can start to seem kind of irrelevant. But National Read a Book Day is all about keeping that good thing going. Books are a great art form that we can enjoy now more than ever. We've got more access to books than past generations, and our technology makes text-based communications an intrinsic part of our lives. Why not keep reading?"

D. Reading Improves our Capacity for Empathy
Back in 2013 "Emanuele Castano, a social psychologist, along with PhD candidate David Kidd conducted five studies...The results suggest that reading fiction is a valuable socializing influence. The study data could inform debates over how much fiction should be included in educational curricula and whether reading programs should be implemented in prisons, where reading literary fiction might improve inmates’ social functioning and empathy. Castano also hopes the finding will encourage autistic people to engage in more literary fiction, in the hope it could improve their ability to empathize without the side effects of medication."  Julianne Chiaet, Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy, Scientific American, October 4, 2013

I am currently reading Daniel Silva's The Black Widow.  What are you reading for National Read a Book Day?

Please post any activities you are partaking in for the day or how you are honoring the day.  I'm doing 2, 4, and 5 so far.

Share your favorite place to read (I typically read in bed or on my couch, but a luxurious treat is reading in the bath.)

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