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November 27, 2022

Sour Puss (Mrs. Murphy, #14)Sour Puss by Rita Mae Brown
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I listened to this audiobook in two sessions, one on the drive from LA to Phoenix and the other on the return trip. I was hoping to hear more of how the animals spoke, but they seldom appeared in the beginning of the story, except for when they disrupted Harry and Fair's long-awaited wedding. There was a long, boring, scene where the experts on bioterrorism and chemical warfare discussed the subjects, which never came up later. Then more interminable TMI about viticulture and winemaking. I felt like I was hearing way too many lectures about subjects I had no interest in, and since it was an audiobook, I couldn't just skim it. It seemed forever until the first murder, not just the missing person, but knowing it was a murder. And that ending was way too gruesome to listen to.
I think I'll go back and read the earlier books in the series [11, 12 and 13] that I skipped because I wanted to hear an audio version. Then I'll give up. "Sour Puss" definitely soured me on this series.

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November 17, 2022

O is for Outlaw (Kinsey Millhone, #15)O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can see from other reviews that quite a few readers were not as impressed with O is for Outlaw as I was. But compared with Sue Grafton's previous N mystery, which I gave 3 stars, this was a great improvement. The steps Kinsey took to put all the puzzle pieces together were completely understandable, although I can see why some readers were confused and put off by the two unrelated crimes that Kinsey had to unravel. However that only made her detective skills shine brighter, although there were so many characters involved that I sometimes had to go back to remind myself who a particular one was. But none of them were superfluous. I enjoyed the apartment manager sisters and their tarot card readings; Kinsey couldn't have solved the murder without their help. I also appreciated how the police detectives, after realizing that Kinsey had been set up, turned to her for assistance. And that ending! Although gruesome, I thought it was great. The murder only got what he deserved.

And after slogging through The Golden Enclaves's 30-page bloated chapters, I very much appreciated how short [less than 15 pages] and condensed the ones in this novel were. And as an author, I appreciate how tempting Grafton made it to read just one more chapter because they were so short.
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November 10, 2022

Forgive the week-long blog absence, but Iím organizing a family vacation in Israel this summer for my second-oldest grandson to celebrate his bar mitzvah there instead of an expensive over-the-top reception in Los Angeles. Not that taking a dozen people, aged 3 to 76, wonít be expensive, but it will be an incredible experience once-in-a-lifetime experience. But trying to plan a trip that includes what all those folks want to see and do, as well as trying to get us all flights to Tel Aviv that arrive the same day [more or less] is like planning the Normandy Invasion.

November 06, 2022

The Golden Enclaves (The Scholomance, #3)The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another Scholomance novel with a long, tedious start that easily could have given readers the same information in half the words. It again annoyed me that the chapters are so long [25-35 pages] that I end up having to cease reading mid-chapter, which forced me to skim that chapter to find a logical stopping point. It really annoyed me how many thousands of ratings went up monthsósome even a yearóbefore the book was published, way more than the number of ARCs would/could have been sent out.
Now for the complaints that are specific to this book, not just the series. 1] The gratuitous casual lesbian sex seemed completely out of character for our heroine, 2] the one sex scene with Orion came out of nowhere and was almost exactly the same as the one in Book Two, 3] Way too many unnecessary descriptions that pulled me out of the story, 4] Loose plot threads that go nowhere, characters who appear and then not heard from again, and 5] Last but not least, El has just gotten out of high school and now, suddenly, sheís the worldís most powerful wizard, the only one who can kill maw-mouths and thatís with a spell she just tosses out. What a disappointment from one of my favorite authors.
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November 02, 2022

Claws and EffectClaws and Effect by Rita Mae Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've enjoyed all the Mrs. Murphy mysteries I've read so far, and I've read them in order. But I've so many recommendations that the audiobooks have an interesting take on the talking animals that when I had a long drive scheduled this week, I decided to try this one to hear in the car. I wasn't that impressed with the animal voices, but I'm glad I tried it out. My main objection to mystery audiobooks is that it is inconvenient to go back to find where a particular clue was dropped. When driving, it is impossible [if I want to reach my destination safely]. So I'll continue to read Mrs. Murphy stories in print form.
As for Claws and Effect, I liked the hospital setting and seeing relationships deepen between the longterm characters. I had a pretty good idea who the murderer was, or at least one of the murderers since it wasn't clear how many there were. I could have done with less information about horses and hunting, but I did appreciate that the hunters always let the fox escape, and that we got to hear what the fox was thinking. I also liked the Underground Railroad involvement. But I though the ending was too abrupt; I wanted to know more of what happened to certain characters afterward.

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October 26, 2022

N is for Noose (Kinsey Millhone, #14)N is for Noose by Sue Grafton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Until this book, Iíve been a huge fan of Graftonís Alphabet series of Kinsey Millhone detective mysteries, most of which involve murders. N is for Noose involves murders, but Iím not a fan of it. Iíve been reading her books in the series in order and this is my first disappointment. After reading the top reviews on Amazon, itís clear Iím not alone. The first reviewer summarized, and I agree, ďI Love Sue Grafton, But This Is My Least Favorite Thus Far.Ē Iíve been a novelist, and a fan of all sorts of fiction, so I know a lousy plot when I read one. As the Amazon reviewer complained, ďThere were parts of this story that really did not make sense to me. I also felt there were certain questions concerning the mystery aspect of this novel that went unaddressed. Ö there are gaps in this case that I could drive a bus through.Ē I considered writing a paragraph of spoiler alerts to all the plot holes, red herrings, and ignored clues, but decided not to do that to future readers.

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October 18, 2022

My Name is AntonMy Name is Anton by Catherine Ryan Hyde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After finishing Hyde's Have You Seen Luis Velez? I had to read another of Catherine Ryan Hyde's novels. No surprise to anyone reading this, I couldn't pass up a book called My Name Is Anton. I was shell-shocked by the emotions that ricocheted through me reading this novel; there are so many subtexts involved. On the surface we have the basic romance where love triumphs over all kinds of adversities, where kindness and generosity overcome meanness and cruelty. But underneath thereís how (not why) people, family members in particular, are unable to acknowledge mental illness and therefore canít/wonít seek help or treatmentóa dynamic still prevalent in society today. Also unexamined is how/why one spouse abuses the other, or parents abuse/neglect children. All these are things people are ashamed of and keep hidden. I didnít see even a hint as to why Antonís parents kept his deceased brotherís room just like before, when one would expect for them to move to a different apartment asap. Or what the motherís absent parents were like to have produced such a daughteróas Anton himself describes heróneither helpful nor kind. But all in all, an excellent read.
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October 14, 2022

Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient WorldForgotten Peoples of the Ancient World by Philip Matyszak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very well-written book that is a pleasure to read. Non-archaeologists will appreciate it just as much, and maybe more, than professionals in the field. I learned a lot about ancient societies in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, but despite the misleading title, unfortunately not much about Asia, and nothing about the Americas. But that's not why I'm reading it. Author Philip Matyszak has a background in Western Classical Antiquity and appears to have purposefully limited Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World to "give a picture of the busy, brawling, multicultural mass of humanity which occupied the ancient Middle East, Mediterranean and parts of Europe." While this clearly omits the rest of the world, it is in keeping with his academic background and his own stated intent. View all my reviews

October 11, 2022

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred TextsThe Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts is over 20 years old and some of its archaeology is already outdated. The authors clearly have an agenda to challenge the Biblical legends, but I wish they weren't so obvious about it. We don't even have evidence that Jesus or the Talmudic rabbis actually existed, so why would anyone think we'd know more about Moses? Other scholars also criticize Tel Aviv University archaeologist Israel Finkelstein as known largely for his minimalist views. But once I took his prejudices into account, that left plenty to learn from this book.

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October 03, 2022

Have You Seen Luis Velez?Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say - I loved Have You Seen Luis Velez?. It was the perfect book to read in the days approaching Yom Kippur. I'd never heard of this novel until I saw it recommended by the Jewish Book Group on Goodreads, although I quickly learned that author Catherine Ryan Hyde had also written Pay It Forward.

I was astounded to find a book that begins with an actual "save the cat moment." *And from a NY Times bestselling author. Yet it's a wonderful beginning and I knew our protagonist Raymond would meet some interesting, though incorrect, other Luis Velezs before finding out about the one is searching for. But I didn't expect such a lovely, heartwarming (and heartbreaking) story as teenage Raymond experiences the tribalism in our society today. I don't think it's a spoiler alert to say that this story shows how kindness and friendship can help overcome the unfairness in every day life. And gives us hope that in the end, justice will be served.

*The Save The Cat template was first published in Blake Snyder's best-selling Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, a guide to plotting dramatic structure. Its name from the movie ďAliensĒ (1986). In the film, the audience is incited emotionally, when Ripley's cat disappears. The audience anticipates that the cat may be the prey of a vicious extraterrestrial that is aboard her spaceship. It plays with the idea that if you show your character doing something that makes the audience root for them (such as saving a cat), then the audience will be immediately more invested in those characters.
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October 01, 2022

M is for Malice (Kinsey Millhone, #13)M is for Malice by Sue Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Over the Rosh Hashana break, I read M is for Malice, the 13th of Sue Graftonís alphabet murder mystery series. That should mean Iím halfway through them, except that Grafton died after finishing Y is for Yesterday I appreciated how Kinsey grows and changes with each novel, and also how Grafton keeps turning out great, yet different, plots. One would think the stories would become repetitive after a time, but they donít, even if the characters spill over from one novel to the next. On that note, I really liked that Robert Dietz was back, and though Kinsey has mixed feelings (to put it mildly) about him, I hope heíll be a recurring character. Both of their efforts were needed to solve the mystery. I would have given this volume 5 stars, but the ending was too sudden and unexpected. Also I found it sad; I felt sorry for both the murderer and the victim, yet it looked like the actual criminals wouldnít face justice. So much family dysfunction and suffering. But definitely worth reading
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September 26, 2022

L is for Lawless (Kinsey Millhone, #12)L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finished L is for Lawless a few weeks ago, before my 10-day book tour to Chicago, but finally had time to write this 4-star review now. I enjoyed this crazy road-trip with redneck criminals trying to find a bunch of stolen loot that may or may not exist. Kinsey, who canít resist poking her nose into somebody elseís mystery, gets dragged along for the ride yet provides both definitions of intelligence that decipher the clues. Her running commentary on the other characters was a hoot. About the ending, youíll need to read my spoiler in the next paragraph.

If it werenít for the cover with its detailed illustration of money and jewels galore, I would have wondered if there was any treasure at all or if this was a wild-goose chase. Thus giving only 4-stars instead of 5. I liked how the evil villain was tricked into getting his just desserts and I considered this justice considering how many people heíd betrayed and murdered. I sympathized with the family of the original burglar when they got away with the loot. I wished Kinsey had come away with some reward but understood that while she has no qualms breaking and entering in pursuit of her quarries, she wouldnít accept stolen goods.

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Maggie Anton

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