Priya Dreams of Marigolds and Masala by Meenal Patel

Did you know that May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month? In honor of this fact, I want to share one of my favorite newish picture books by a Southeast Asian American author and illustrator.

“PRIYA DREAMS OF MARIGOLD AND MASALA,” written and illustrated by MEENAL PATEL, is a sweet story of a grandmother, named Babi Ba, sharing vivid memories of India with her granddaughter Priya as they make rotli, a type of Indian flatbread. As they roll dough, Priya asks, “What is India like?” This inquiry serves as the catalyst for a journey through the grandmother’s birthplace — a sensory journey of food, sounds of the city and sights of the market. Patel’s descriptions are tangible; Priya (and the reader) can smell the cumin and masala at the market as it “tickles your nose.” We can feel the “hot sun on (our) face” after it rains, and we can hear the “quiet swish-swish” of a sari as a woman walks through a shop.

The grandmother’s joy and comfort in these memories is infectious, both for Priya and the reader. These stories spur Priya to action, calling on her classmates to help design a marigold garland for her grandmother to hang over her door during winter. Upon receiving this gift, Babi Ba tells Priya that the best way to carry your home — or your memories of such a place — with you is to share it with others.

Every time I go back home to California, I bring my family to my favorite place by the ocean. At this point, I could describe the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks as you stand overhead. I could describe the burning thigh muscles as you ascend the stairs back to your car. I could describe the cold rush of air across your face as you walk the dusty trail closer to the overlook. Though my home is not quite as far as Babi Ba’s, I understand the joy inherent in memories of home and in the sharing of those memories.

Patel’s illustrations are just as colorful as Babi Ba’s memories. The spreads that include people milling about the city feature a diverse array of skin tones. The saris worn are both colorful and simple in detail, and most characters are featured with round, rosy pink or red cheeks. The spreads featuring cityscapes are sharply angled, mashing colors and patterns purposefully and carefully. Patel’s color palette manages to be both muted and colorful simultaneously; the collection of browns, oranges, pinks, red, yellow and navy are delightfully twee. (Somewhat relatedly, if you have ever seen Wes Anderson’s 2014 film “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” you will likely notice the similarities in color there.)

In the author’s note, Patel describes visiting India as an adult and recognizing how the things that made her feel different back home were parts of daily life there. This visit allowed her to interweave the various threads of her identity and to understand how those “unique threads” make up who she is.

You can find “Priya Dreams of Marigolds and Masala” here. If you’d like to see more of Patel’s art, you can follow her on Instagram @meenal_land.

The Moon: A History for the Future by Oliver Morton

On March 9th I was headed east around 9:00pm and saw a spectacular sight – a supermoon.  It appeared huge on the horizon with an orange hue and wisps of clouds. Beautiful.

2020 will have three supermoons occurring in 3 consecutive months, March, April and May. I did catch the April event but it was a different sight. The moon was not as big, bright white, and not a wisp of cloud was in sight. With these back to back occurrences on my mind I checked out The Moon to learn more about what I saw.

Oliver Morton’s The Moon: A History for the Future is much more than just a book to answer my simple questions about full moon events. He does explain about all phases of the moon and the orbit of the moon. So periodically some of the full moons that occur every 29 days happen when the moon’s orbit is closer to the earth (perigee) and we get to experience supermoons.

From the content of the book I surmise that Morton has read almost everything there is to read on the moon. He employs both fact and fiction in this study of Earth’s natural satellite. He intersperses chapters of factual information on the moon with chapters exploring the perception of the moon in history, literature, and art.

The author reflects on the moon as seen through artists, such as Van Eyck and Leonardo, and through history starting with Galileo. This is not a chronological history but a contemplation of the people and ideas that advanced our understanding.

Of course, there cannot be a book about the moon without something about Apollo. This section starts long before the actual missions with the technological advances that occurred to make space travel possible. Morton goes from gunpowder to World War II rockets to Saturn V. He also relates how science fiction authors influenced the interest in space travel.

From the engines to the space suits Morton details the work that went into sending men to the moon, not once but several times. He includes the transcripts of the communications between people on earth and the astronauts on the moon for Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 – from “That’s one small step for man” to “as I take man’s last step from the surface”.

From the great achievement of the Apollo missions he moves on to how the race to the moon lost momentum. Even though the focus moved to other areas of space the significance of the Apollo mission cannot be discounted. Morton explains the different thoughts on the earth’s geologic age and one of those is that when Armstrong stepped on the moon it began a new age. The technology that made that step possible is significant on a planetary scale.

The remainder of the book speculates on why the promise of Apollo came to nothing and the reason why we will and should go back. He explores mining, tourism, and colonies on the moon. He also touches on ongoing programs in China, India, and other countries including the U.S.

He devotes some pages to Elon Musk and Space X and to Jeff Bezos’ (Amazon) commitment to Blue Origin. Morton also touches on the issues that need to be resolved especially for plans to stay on the moon. Where do you land and how will space on the moon be allocated?

My initial interest in this book was for a simple question and I got so much more. It did answer my question but also provided a great philosophical look at an object that we take for granted.

The library only has this title in paper form. My wish is that by the time you read this review the library will have reopened. If not and you want to read about the moon, try the Ebsco Ebook collection. You can find the link on the library website at www.joplinpubliclibrary.org.

You’ll find titles for both adults and juveniles and access is unlimited so you never have to wait to read the title you choose. You might try The Book of the Moon: A Guide to Our Closest Neighbor by Maggie Aderin or Moon by Lynn Stone.

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Digital Knitting Round-up

In the summer of 2009, I needed a distraction. It was just before my sophomore year of college – I was an English major here at Missouri Southern – and I was looking for new ways to spend my time. I made a list of about 20 things to accomplish over the summer (nothing productive, just for fun): juggling, performing magic tricks, being ambidextrous. By the end of summer, the only thing could confidently cross off was: learn to knit.

The inspiration had come from a book – there are few more likely sources of inspiration for an English major. My knitting muse is a character from the young adult series “The Nine Lives of Chloe King.”  The series is about a girl who learns she is one of a group of cat-people; the romantic interest opposite Chloe is a boy who knit his own earflap hat with cat ears. I wanted that hat, and by the end of the year – I had one.

I did not stop knitting after the hat, and the first place I turned to for new inspiration was knitting books. People who knit are incredibly creative, and there are some really excellent pattern books available at the Joplin Public Library. These books are full of glorious, full color pictures of the most amazing things knitters can accomplish – with step-by-step instructions so that you can accomplish them too.

I love looking at these books; I do not love trying to hold a book open while I am using both of my hands to knit.

So, instead of telling you about some of my favorites from the JPL’s physical collection, I am going to round up a few of the most interesting pattern books available in our digital collection. Knitting from a digital book is a breeze: my tablet sits propped up at just the right angle, never loses my spot, and I can often even zoom in to any particularly complicated charts I may encounter.

Most recently I was working from “Interweave Favorites: 25 Knitted Accessories to Wear and Share,” which is full of cute and colorful accessories that knit up relatively quickly. To me, small projects are the most fun – there is nothing more depressing than the half-done sweater or afghan that you just don’t want to finish.

If you are tired of knitting basic hats and scarves, maybe you will enjoy “Once Upon a Knit” by Genevieve Miller. These patterns are all inspired by fairy tale stories and classic literature: from Little Red Riding Hood’s red riding hood to a Wonderland-inspired beret.

Once you have knitting basics down, I recommend that you check out Margaret Radcliffe’s “Circular Knitting Workshop.” Radcliffe guides you step-by-step through circular knitting: the process of knitting in one continuous loop, making a tube of fabric. This process is a game-changer for socks, hats, sleeves, mittens, and almost every knitting project you want to make.

The final book in my round-up is “2-at-a-Time Socks” by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. Knitting a comfortable sock is complicated – it involves constant measuring, and knowing exactly where to make the heel is crucial. The last thing many knitters want to do when they finish a sock is start another one. That’s where this book comes in. If you master the two-at-a-time technique, you never have to suffer through knitting two socks in a row ever again! Knitting both socks at the same time also helps ensure that your pair is identical, rather than one sock being slightly longer or wider than the other.

I have been knitting steadily for almost eleven years now, and I am much better than I was in my cat-ear hat days. Being able to bring something to life with just a piece of string and a couple of sticks is a magical feeling, and if you find yourself at a loss for how to spend your time, you might give it a try. I have always found it to be a rewarding and fulfilling hobby, and I hope you will too.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

When I saw this title come out a year ago, I was hyped. JENNIFER WEINER is a New York Times bestselling author, and I typically find her books engaging and hard to put down. And her newest title, “MRS. EVERYTHING,” does not disappoint. This multigenerational novel that spans six decades is about two sisters and how their lives are altered by the events around them.

Bethie and Jo Kaufman are young girls growing up in Detroit during the 1950s. Younger, beautiful, self-assured Bethie is more easily understood by their mother, as she is drawn to clothes, boys and knows she is destined to be a star; whereas, smart, tomboyish Jo — who much prefers dungarees over a dress and itchy tights — better relates to their father.

It is easy to see that Bethie will grow up, marry her high school sweetheart and mother equally adorable children, while Jo will struggle to find a place where she fits in the world and may eventually — if she is lucky — carve out a path that works for her.

However, these cliched roles do not hold true. Key events transpire that send each girl down much different paths. Jo’s differences give her the need to conform, and she is compelled to live a life untrue to herself for much of her life, while Bethie eventually feels the need to rebel and not walk the path that everyone has laid out for her.

To share more would give away too much of this novel. Throughout, Weiner explores each character’s choices. The novel covers various topics that include the loss of a parent, sexual experimentation and rebellion.

While the novel is predictable at times, it is also compelling. Weiner’s use of alternating chapters, told by each sister, moves the story along and draws in the audience. This double perspective balances the story and creates a richer viewpoint. Readers will want to see what happens in this brilliant tale focused on emotionally tough subjects such as family, hardship, love and loss.

Jeana Gockley is the director of the Joplin Public Library.

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It’s National Poetry Month!

A Dazzling Display of Dogs by Betsy Franco, illustrations by Michael Wertz

iF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility edited by Allie Esiri and Rachel Kelly

 

I’m so excited! April is National Poetry Month!  In 1996, the American Academy of Poets launched this annual celebration to “remind the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters”. Poetry is a rich gift offering something for everyone. Whether formal or informal, fancy or casual, long or short, poetry is a gateway to the universe. It explores the past and worlds unknown, speaks what the heart cannot say, brings solace and strength, yelps with joy, makes us laugh.

If you’ve only encountered dry, dusty poems or have only had poetry forced upon you, try one of these books instead. Both of them are great for family time or solo reading, and both, along with other poetry books, are available through the Library’s OverDrive/Missouri Libraries 2 Go e-resource found at https://molib2go.overdrive.com/missouripldc-joplin/content or the Libby app.

You’ll find a variety of verses–rhyming and not–and subjects in these poems. They are fun to see and hear! Try reading them aloud, play around with the tempo, feel the rhythm of the words. For extra fun, try reading outside! It’s a super opportunity to explore poems on your own or to build language skills with kids and is easily adaptable to electronic communication.

An easy place to start is with iF: A Treasury of Poems for Almost Every Possibility, an anthology of well known or frequently taught poems with a smattering of less well known verses from famous poets. British editors Allie Esiri and Rachel Kelly created an app to connect kids to poetry and have collected their favorites to encourage poetry time at home. Their selections range from nursery rhymes to nonsense verse to love poems to historical ballads–lots of familiar territory here. Plenty of famous, pre-20th century names are included–Wordsworth, Poe, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Browning, Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, among others–with a smattering of later poets.

iF offers helpful aids to understand poetry’s structure and to connect poetry to children’s lives. Esiri and Kelly include a glossary of poetic forms and terms accessible to families exploring how poems work. The editors also divide the book into sections such as “Growing Up”, “Humor and Nonsense”, “Animals, Nature and Seasons”, and “Bedtime”; each section starts with easier poems and progresses to longer, more complex ones. Many poems have short explanatory notes from the editors. An index of authors and index of titles make it easy to search for a familiar entry. Most helpful is the “Poems for Possibilities” list which suggests poems for different situations such as needing courage, seeking guidance, facing grief, or needing “a pocket full of peace”.

While iF is a gateway to read-aloud poetry, A Dazzling Display of Dogs is proof that poetry can be a feast for the eyes and ears. Poet Betsy Franco has transformed dog stories from elementary students into lively concrete poems which dance across the pages. Concrete poetry often refers to poems with outlines depicting a recognizable shape and which may or may not rhyme–a verse about a bell written in the shape of a bell, for example. Here the poems are artworks with a life of their own. Illustrator Michael Wortz uses each poem’s shape to create energetic scenes in a palette of blues and warm reds, oranges, and yellow. He layers shapes and textures in a look resembling cut paper come to life.

Suitable for reading cover to cover or randomly, Franco’s book is chock full of delight. Try “Fast Al, the Retired Greyhound”, a former track racer whose story is told in the circular path he runs on the beach. Or check out “Apollo at the Beach” which shows a yapping dog chasing swooping seagulls of text. “Emmett’s Ode to His Tennis Ball” is a riot of yellow and blue with a “slobbery, sloppy, slimy sphere” of poem in his mouth. “White Collar Blues” is a Cone of Shame worn by Mathilda who is having none of it.

There’s plenty of fun to be had during National Poetry Month.  For virtual activities from the American Academy of Poets, check out https://poets.org/ and click on “National Poetry Month” at the top of the screen. See the Library’s webpage for links to our e-resources for books of all sorts, http://www.joplinpubliclibrary.org/

Hope you enjoy the poetry of words and of nature this month!

 

101 Art Destinations in the U.S.: Where Art Lives Coast to Coast by Owen Phillips

This is an exciting book. Before discussing why, however, I’d like to give a shout out to Ridpath Club for providing this title in loving memory of their friend and former clubmate, Martha Fowles, who loved art and loved to travel. We’re happy to have the opportunity to share Ms. Fowles love of art and travel with our library patrons via this title.

101 Art Destinations in the U.S.: Where Art Lives Coast to Coast by Owen Phillips is a superb travel guide for anyone and everyone who cares about art. Admittedly, I briefly considered writing about something other than a travel guide for this review, in light of our current circumstances, but no doubt many of you, like me, are experiencing wanderlust. Plus, many of the destinations Phillips includes have a large online presence, so you can peruse digital collections and take virtual tours.

I appreciate that Phillips took a regional approach in the organization of this book: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, Midwest, South Central, Mountain, Southwest, and Pacific Coast and Hawaii. Organizing the destinations regionally rather than by type or some other method seems the most thoughtful approach.

Within each region, the destinations are further arranged by state. Thus, the next time you’re visiting Aunt Sally in Texas (South Central region) or attending a conference in Utah (Mountain region), you can easily flip to that section of the book and explore art destinations in that area.

Phillips introduces each of his 101 entries with a beautiful, colorful photograph, either of the destination itself or one of its exhibits, the name and address of each location, a well-written brief history and description of each destination, and information about nearby points-of-interest.

For example, if you’re visiting the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, NY, you might stop by the nearby LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton to take in the sculpture gardens, which are comprised of pieces by Buckminster Fuller, Yoko Ono, de Kooning, and others.

Another pleasurable feature of this title is that it offers a variety of destinations, such as houses, memorials, museums, parks, studios, etc., as well as represents an array of types of visual art, such as architecture, ceramics, painting, public art, sculpture, and more.

In addition to being an expertly arranged art-destinations travel guide, this book is, to state it simply, fun. It’s the sort of book that you can read from cover-to-cover or just the sections pertinent to your travel plans. My favorite way to read it is to open it at random and explore whichever entry I’m presented with.

This read-at-random approach led me to The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL, which began in the 1930s. Their collections are comprised of artworks from all eras and all continents, many of which can be viewed online at ringling.org.

To be honest, I cannot recommend this book enough. In fact, I’m acquiring a copy for my personal library. Not only it useful for traveling and armchair traveling alike, but it’s a nice conversation piece and an interesting coffee table book, if smaller than most.

Finally, I leave you with some of my favorite art destinations mentioned in the book that I highly recommend exploring online and, if possible, in person when they reopen: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR; the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, OK; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO; and The Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, OH.

Take care and, as always, happy reading.

BIG PAPA AND THE TIME MACHINE by Daniel Bernstrom

It’s been a while since I rounded up my favorite picture books for a review, so I am eager to share one of my most recent favorites.

On a good week, I bring home approximately 10 picture books to read with my son. They typically fall into three categories: books my son wants to read over and over again, books he is through with after one reading and books we all love. Sometimes, though, they fall into a fourth category: books that make me cry.

The most recent book to fall in that fourth category is “BIG PAPA and the TIME MACHINE” by DANIEL BERNSTROM and SHANE EVANS. This sweet story about a grandparent’s love was inspired by Bernstrom’s relationship with his own grandfather; don’t skip on the illustrator’s note at the end to hear more about it.

“Big Papa and the Time Machine” follows a young boy and his grandfather as they travel back in time to glean lessons on bravery and love. The story begins with the boy and his papa driving to school in the titular time machine, a 1952 Ford. On the drive, the boy admits to his grandfather that he’s scared to go to school. His admission sparks a time-traveling journey through one African American family’s experience in the 20th century. They visit a younger version of the grandfather, hugging his mother as he prepares to leave home. They stop at a 1957 club, just as his grandfather and grandmother meet for the first time. Each trip back in time ends with the same question: “Was you scared?” Big Papa’s response as they watch a younger version of himself leaving home is the first of many musings on bravery. As they watch the boy’s mother hand a newborn baby off to Big Papa, the weight of his love for the boy becomes clear; the newborn baby is that boy, and the mother never returns. Big Papa admits to his own fear here too: “You was so little, and I was so old … but sometimes you gotta love the unexpected if you ever gonna find love at all. That’s called being brave.”

As someone whose child is very loved by his grandparents, I felt myself getting emotional at this point. But as a parent who sends her child to preschool every day (and as a human being with working tear ducts), I was done getting emotional by the end of the book; I had fully arrived.

The last lesson on bravery comes when the boy looks over at Big Papa as they pull up to school and sees a tear rolling down his cheek. “You scared right now?” he asks, and his grandfather responds, “I’m scared you grown’ up too fast … and I already miss you.”

Shane W. Evans’ illustrations are simple yet poignant. His drawings consist of sharp outlines and soft colors, with soft white swirls stretching across each page, signifying a dreamlike journey back in time. Evans portrays feelings between grandfather and grandson in subtle ways, as with Big Papa’s bunched up shirt sleeve when they share a long hug before they finally say goodbye. Admittedly, I am a sucker for a good intergenerational story, and Bernstrom and Evans do it well. I would recommend this book for families, obviously, but I would also recommend it to anyone with a heart.

Dooku: Lost Jedi by Cavan Scott

Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise? I thought not. It’s not a story the Jedi would tell you.

That’s okay. The amount of Star Wars media is as expansive as the universe in which the story takes place. It is hard to keep track of everything. While most people are familiar with the movies, there are books, TV shows- both live action and animated- comic books, and video games for all ages. These stories take place over thousands of years and tell the epic story of Jedi and Sith, times of peace, and times of war.

Disney recently announced that the universe would expand even more with a new era of books and comics coming out in August. A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. The High Republic will take place approximately 200 years before Episode I: The Phantom Menace and introduce a lot of new characters and planets. I’ll just say it, I hope they do a better job at this era than the more recent trilogy.

When Disney acquired the rights for Star Wars in 2012, they took a lot of novels of the Expanded Universe considered canon, and rebranded it as “legends”’, and a new continuity would be established. It’s as if a million voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. A google search for “Star Wars Del Rey timeline” will lead to a website dedicated to the releases of stories considered canon in chronological order. Right now there are over 30 books on the list, as well as two TV shows, and the 9 movies in the franchise. My goal is to slowly go through this timeline, starting with the first book on the list: Dooku: Lost Jedi.

Dooku: Lost Jedi, written by Cavan Scott, provides some background for one of the more mysterious characters of the prequels (episodes 1-3): Count Dooku. His time in the movies is unfortunately limited, so it is nice to learn more about this complex character. Before he was a Sith Lord, and the leader of the Separatist, Count Dooku, or Darth Tyranus, was once a Jedi. Taken by the Jedi Order as a child, he showed promise and quickly became a driven student powerful in the Force. So powerful that he takes on a padawan of his own, Qui-Gon Jinn. But as time goes on, Dooku begins to question the ethics of the Jedi and becomes fascinated with Sith relics and the Jedi who studies them. This leads him to a dark path as he struggles to stay on the light side of the Force. It doesn’t help that he finds out his parents didn’t want him and forbid him from speaking to his sister, Jenza.

Though it centers around Dooku, the narrator of this story is Ventress, an assassin being trained in the dark side of the Force. She is tasked with finding Dooku’s lost sister. With an array of hologram recordings at her disposal to help her search, Ventress learns more about her troubled master and his reasons for leaving the Order. Like the prequel movies, we see how the Jedi can be flawed with their sometimes close-minded way of thinking. This book also does a great job at turning the fearsome Dooku into someone you can sympathize with. Ventress herself is a fairly complex character. She is constantly haunted by the ghost of her old master, whom she murdered. He stays with her and attempts to steer her in the right direction. As things progress, she struggles to take control of her own destiny or become completely consumed by Dooku and his unrelenting force.

The intended way to enjoy this is by listening to the audio book version, which features a full cast. With a length of about 6 and a half hours, it answers a lot of questions, but seems like there could have been more. Production-wise, it is extremely immersive. Between the full cast performance and wide range of sound effects and musical components, it is reminiscent of the radio dramatization NPR put out in the 1980s . If you want to listen to Dooku: Lost Jedi, you can check it out on Overdrive. For those that are not a fan of listening to books, there is also a screenplay adapted directly from the audio version. This would definitely be a fun book to get with a group of friends and read it out loud together.

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Deep State by Chris Hauty and Lost Hills by Lee Goldberg

March is Women’s History Month and I’d like to be able to tell you my review choice reflects that but it doesn’t. Both of these titles have strong female leads but they are entirely fictional and contemporary.

The premise of Chris Hauty’s debut novel, Deep State, seems to have been pulled from current headlines, a populist president without previous experience and divisive politics. Hayley Chill, a new White House intern, steps into this situation seemingly immune to the tensions.

Hayley is an ex-military boxing champion. She is first introduced ready to defend her winning streak against a ringer. Her discipline, determination and intelligence result in victory and sure advancement. But she abruptly resigns her commission and has now turned up in DC assigned to Chief of Staff Peter Hall’s office.

Hayley is low man on the totem pole but her willingness to work and attention to detail soon find favor with Hall. Each morning she delivers a briefing book to his home at 5:00am. Then one morning he doesn’t answer the door and when she looks in the window he has collapsed in the kitchen. It appears he died of a heart attack but Hayley find a fresh errant footprint in the rapidly melting snow.

The suspicious intern starts digging for information and soon finds herself a target in a conspiracy to assassinate the president that reaches into the upper echelon of the government and the DC powerful. Even though after Hall’s death Hayley is moved to the president’s staff, she doesn’t know whom she can trust and is in a race against a powerful foe to thwart the assassination.

This novel requires you to accept some things with little or no explanation but the pace and action don’t give you much time to wonder.  The tension filled climax will entertain then shock you. My reaction was ‘No!’ then ‘What!!’ and ‘How did I miss that?’. But keep reading because the author has some explaining to do.

I like novels with good characters and Hayley Chill is unique. She’s self-possessed, skilled, analytical, detached and gritty. I hope she makes another appearance soon.

My second strong female is Eve Ronin in Lee Goldberg’s novel, Lost Hills. Eve doesn’t have Hayley’s skill set. She’s a recently promoted detective in the Robbery Homicide Division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department with the nickname Deathfist.

Eve is recorded taking down and arresting the star of the Deathfist movie franchise. The sheriff and the department is weathering a scandal and bad press for abusing prisoners at the jail. When Eve’s takedown goes viral the sheriff latches onto that good press and puts Eve front and center with a promotion she coveted. Her fellow officers are not happy with her stardom nor her promotion hence the nickname and a less than cordial welcome.

Eve’s partner, Duncan Pavone, is counting down the days, 163, until his retirement so he isn’t concerned with how Eve got her job. He is willing to impart some of his hard-earned wisdom if Eve takes the lead and he can stay safe until his 4 months are up.

Their first call is to the spot where 3 jurisdictions come together. A dead man in a truck is a possible suicide and the truck is in LA County Sheriff’s jurisdiction. But Eve soon realizes the truck was moved across the jurisdictional line courtesy of two LA city detectives. Their next call makes Duncan wish Eve wasn’t so observant.

Tanya Kenworth and her two children, Caitlin and Troy, are missing from the house she shares with her soon to be ex-boyfriend. No bodies are found but the blood in the kitchen, at the door, in all 3 bedrooms and especially the bathroom tell Eve and Duncan they are searching for bodies and a killer.

Eve has good instincts and follows the few clues there are to a suspect within a day. The challenge then becomes finding the bodies and proving guilt. Eve is sure she has the right man but his smug self-assurance has her searching for what she missed.

Eve is relentless and when she realizes where she went wrong it’s a race against time and an out of control wildfire to prove a killer’s guilt and to save more than her case.

Goldberg builds this novel to a thrilling and satisfying conclusion. Eve is a likeable heroine and has a good supporting cast. This is the debut of what I hope is a long-running series.

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Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Teenage sleuths are all well and good, but what becomes of them when they grow up?  In Edgar Cantero’s “Meddling Kids” we meet the Blyton Summer Detective Club – a group of grown-ups who spent the summers of their formative years solving mysteries in Blyton Hills, Oregon.

Thirteen years ago, they solved their final mystery: the case of the Sleepy Lake monster. Two boys, two girls, and one dog put a man in jail for impersonating a monster and attempting to steal the fortune said to be hidden in a local abandoned mansion. On that fateful night, they solved their case, but the deeper mysteries of the mansion have haunted them ever since.

Now in their mid-twenties, the four members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club have gone their separate ways; they lead broken, unstable lives in various parts of the country:

  • Peter Manner, the leader, moved to Hollywood and became a famous actor, but he was fighting his own demons and killed himself before the action of this book.
  • Nate Rogers, the resident supernatural expert, has spent the intervening years checking himself in and out of mental institutions. He is currently at an institution in Massachusetts, where he is hoping to rid himself of a hallucination of Peter’s ghost.
  • Kerri Hollis, the brains of the group, moved to New York where she works at a bar, plagued by nightmares and unmotivated to finish college.
  • Andrea (Andy) Rodriguez – the muscle – is a vagrant with active warrants out for her in multiple states, and an as-yet-unrequited, decade-old crush on Kerri.
  • Rounding out the group is Kerri’s Weimaraner, Tim, the great-grandson of the original mystery-solving dog.

Andy is convinced that something has cursed them, and that solving the mystery of the abandoned mansion is the only way for them to move on with their lives. She convinces Kerri and Nate to join her, and the three humans, one dog, and one ghost/hallucination make their way to the house in Blyton Hills where everything began.

“Meddling Kids” is a high-energy romp, complete with wacky hijinks and suspicious townspeople. It has mysterious messages, intricate traps, and secret passages. But it is also a horror story with actual monsters for our grown-ups to battle – and an evil force waiting to be set free. It’s Scooby-Doo in the world of Cthulhu.

The story moves forward at break-neck speed; the mystery getting more complicated at every turn. Cantero’s love of pop culture beats at the heart of this book, though some references are more subtle than other – I’m looking at you, Zoinx River.

Cantero bounces back and forth between traditional dialog and movie-script-style dialog (complete with stage directions) in a way that I found compelling. He plays with language throughout the book, making it clear that he had as much fun writing it as the reader does reading it.  I look forward to seeking out more of Edgar Cantero’s work, and I hope that you give “Meddling Kids” at try.

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