Blood on the Tracks & Dead Stop; Book Review

Dead Stop (Sydney Rose Parnell Series Book 2) by [Nickless, Barbara]       Blood on the Tracks (Sydney Rose Parnell Series Book 1) by [Nickless, Barbara]

I just finished the second of a three book series by award winning author Barbara Nickless. Blood on the Tracks and Dead Stop will set your heart pounding. Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell is a railroad cop facing grizzly crimes, while fighting an internal battle from her stint as a mortuary specialist in Iraq. With her K-9 partner, Clyde, she takes the reader on a wild ride solving gut wrenching crimes along the railroad lines in Colorado.

The Sydney Rose Parnell Series will put the taste of grit in your mouth, and the feel of grime on your palms. It will keep you guessing to the last pages. Nickless weaves a tight cloth that leaves no lose threads for the reader to reach any conclusions too soon.

Blood on the Tracks Awards:

  • The Colorado Book Award, presented by Colorado Humanities & the Center for the Book.
  • Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence for mainstream mystery.
  • Colorado Authors’ League Writing Award for genre fiction.
  • Suspense Magazine Best Book of 2016.

The third installment, Ambush, comes out late in 2018.

I am excited to get my hands on Ambush……….I pre-ordered it on Amazon.

Author Barbara Nickless with a proud furry friend.

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Among the Lesser Gods, by Margo Catts

margo-lesser-gods Among the Lesser Gods by Margo Catts

Among the Lesser Gods explores the question, “If we make a decision in childhood how does that shape and mold our present?” This lovely story is set in the mining town of Leadville, Colorado. A young woman, Elena Alvarez, has made many bad choices in her life beginning with a deadly fire at the age of five. She begrudgingly completes college and is in an unwanted pregnancy. Now, her grandmother invites her to stay with her for the summer and care for a family who has suffered their own losses.

Margo Catts’ debut novel is beautifully written. Catts shows how a young woman comes to terms with her past through living in the present. The story pulls the reader in, weaving a delicate tapestry of joy, sadness, elation, devastation, and fulfillment. A great read.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell


★★★★☆
This hefty novel opens in 1806 with the meeting of the Great Magic Society. Theoretical magicians meet to discuss their discoveries while reading about, but not practicing, magic. A gentleman does not, after all, practice magic.

Ms. Clarke weaves a wonderful tale filled with shadows lurking in dark corners and chilled breezes that sneak through the window cracks. Magic is coming back to England after a 300-year absence, and Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange are in the middle of it all as they fumble through dusty spell books.

The reader spends the first third of the book with Mr. Norrell and his fussy approach to magic. His counterpart, Jonathan Strange doesn’t make his first appearance until well into the story.  The two characters are the opposite of one another in every respect. Mr. Norrell is small, mousey, and reserve in personality and magic. On the opposite side, Jonathan Strange is tall, handsome, and bold.

Their lives become deeply intertwined and neither Johnathan Strange nor Mr. Norrell understand the depth until the last chapters and pages.

I loved the writing style of Ms. Clarke, which is reminiscent of the time-period in which the book takes place. The humor is dry, and hidden among the words. If you are not an English major, you may miss many of the jokes that are drizzled throughout the book. The writing style is colorful and the reader will be treated to smelling the acrid air and feeling the rough textures.

The use of end-notes gives the reader some backstory of side characters and events. They are a fun diversion away from a long story, but they were a little disruptive at times. I skipped a few just to continue with my reading.

Overall, this is a great book to lose yourself in.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

The Sound of a Wild Snail EatingThe Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
★★★★☆

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. The writing is very eloquent. It has a quiet strength to it that the reader may not realize until after reading Ms. Bailey’s story. The main character (the author), who is gravely ill, finds her own strength and resolve through her observations of the daily challenges faced by an unassuming creature. The snail’s simplicity brought a bit of joy to what was a difficult time in her life.

I know more about snails than I ever thought possible and was entertained while learning and reading. Some of the historical quotes, facts, and figures got a bit tiring, but it was well balanced with the humanness of the story. I don’t think I’ll look at a snail the same way.

From Goodreads: In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail.

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world.

Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. 

Told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

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Beastkeeper

BeastkeeperBeastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
★★★★☆

I LOVED the writing style that carried me through this quaint story. The plot was not earth shattering so my rating of a four instead of five stars. I still really enjoyed reading this and recommend it to adults as well as young adults.

From Goodreads: Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.

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Fourth Son

Fourth SonFourth Son by Monica Poole
★★★★☆

Fourth Son is a bitter tale of a young man, Jahnes Tehrel, who faces saving his family from slavery after his father dies in a mining accident. His decision changes his life and those he loves the most. This book is an excellent examination of a society built on a brutal caste system of order that strictly enforces the hierarchy.

This is the second time I have read Monica Poole’s tale and will admit the second round was much better than the first (Note: never read this type of story when sick). There are many subtleties threaded through this story that could be missed if the reader isn’t paying attention. I want to give this book a five star rating but it falls slightly short. The beginning of the story builds very slowly using an overabundance of reflections. The sense of who the characters are, especially Jahnes, is masterfully developed yet I didn’t fall into the story through development of place.

I highly recommend this book with a note to the reader to push through the earlier chapters. You won’t be disappointed with the final ones.

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The Magicians

The Magicians by, Lev Grossman
★★★★☆
The Magicians is a book not for everyone. Quentin, our main character, is magical, and missing something in his life. If he could only get to Fillory (a magical place found in his favorite books, and a very grown up version of Narnia) then everything will be OK. He first finds himself at Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic (think Harry Potter in a partying frat). After 4 years, he finally gets to Fillory. Throughout the story Quentin is forever longing for something that is just out of his reach that he never can grasp.

Lev Grossman is a master at opening Quentin’s mind and diving in to reveal those dark places that everyone lives in at some point or another. Grossman does such a wonderful job of writing that I couldn’t put the book down. He drew me in and I left only because I turned the last page. What is missed in the “feel-good department” it is made up through great writing.