Saturday, January 29, 2022

Cheyenne Summer: The Battle of Beecher Island: A History by Terry Mort -- BOOK REVIEW



In Cheyenne Summer, Terry Mort takes a close look at one battle in eastern Colorado during the Indian Wars of the late 1800s. In the Battle of Beecher Island in 1868, Cheyenne and Sioux warriors fought US Army scouts, including two battalions of Black "Buffalo Soldiers."

Although Mort describes the battle as not strategically significant, he concludes that it was culturally and historically important. He uses the battle to frame a discussion about one of the most transformative periods in America's history -- including a discussion of what motivated the white settlers, the Cheyenne, and the US soldiers, both white and Black.

I’m not a big fan of military history. So I appreciated that the bulk of Mort’s 270-page book was not spent describing the actual Battle of Beecher Island. Most of the book provides context for the battle. The first third or more is a detailed account of the Cheyenne, their history, culture, and nomadic tradition. The next third is a brief history of the U.S. Army and civilian settlers during the period of the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and western expansion. This was a perfect introduction for a reader like me to the various players in the Indian Wars, with their conflicting desires and goals.

Having grown up at both ends of the Oregon Trail -- Nebraska as a child and Oregon from a teenager on -- I've picked up some of the sad history of how our country treated the Native Americans during the settlement of the Western frontier. But there is a lot to learn. Terry Mort’s new book was a fine place for me to start.

Evoking the spirit—and danger—of the early American West, this is the story of the Battle of Beecher Island, pitting an outnumbered United States Army patrol against six hundred Native warriors, where heroism on both sides of the conflict captures the vital themes at play on the American frontier.

* * *

Although the battle of Beecher Island was a small incident in the history of western conflict, the story brings together all of the important elements of the Western frontier—most notably the political and economic factors that led to the clash with the Natives and the cultural imperatives that motivated the Cheyenne, the white settlers, and the regular soldiers, both white and black. More fundamentally, it is a story of human heroism exhibited by warriors on both sides of the dramatic conflict.

Read the opening sentence and a teaser from Cheyenne Summer here

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Island of Gold by Amy Maroney -- BOOK BEGINNINGS


It has been a long, busy work week for me. The best part has been tucking in at night with this new historical fiction books by Amy Maroney, Island of Gold. I loved her Miramonde Series about a female artist in 15th Century Spain. This one is gearing up to be just as good!

What are you reading this week? Please share the opening sentence (or so) with us here on Book Beginnings on Fridays. You can also share the first lines from a book you want to highlight, even if you aren't reading it right now. 


Cédric offered the falcon a strip of rabbit meat.

-- from the Prologue, Island of Gold by Amy Maroney. The Prologue is set in Languedoc, France in 1435. Falcons are a big part of the story. At least, in the first part of the book that I've read, trade in falcons is a big part of the story and it is fascinating. 

Islands of Gold is the first in Maroney's new series called the Sea and Sand Chronicles. She knows how to weave a yarn so I am sure I will enjoy every book in this new collection!


Leave a link to your Book Beginnings post in the linky box below. Please use the hashtag #bookbeginnings if you share on social media. 

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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From Island of Gold:
Her sister had been fifteen when she was married to a corpulent, swaggering merchant of Albi two summers ago. Sophie was sixteen now, and her parents had not once broached the topic of marriage.
I hope to lose myself in this one this weekend. What are your bookish plans?

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The National Book Award for Fiction -- LIST


The National Book Foundation has awarded the National Book Awards to American writers since 1950. The Awards currently honor authors in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People's Literature. There have been other categories in the past.

I am not going to keep updating the winners after 2021. My enthusiasm for prize-winners is waning with the 2020s. I plan to focus my efforts on reading the winners up to 2020 then declare victory and move on to other bookish projects.

I am working my way through the Fiction winners. So far, I've read 46 of the winners. The winners through 2021 are listed below, with notes about whether I've finished a book, it is on my TBR shelf, or it is available as an audiobook from the library on Overdrive.

How many of these have you read? See any favorites?

2021 Hell of a Book by Jason Mott FINISHED

2020 Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu FINISHED

2019 Trust Exercise by Susan Choi ON OVERDRIVE

2018 The Friend by Sigrid Nunez FINISHED

2017 Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward FINISHED

2016 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead FINISHED

2015 Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson ON OVERDRIVE

2014 Redeployment by Phil Klay ON OVERDRIVE

2013 The Good Lord Bird by James McBride ON OVERDRIVE

2012 The Round House by Louise Erdrich ON OVERDRIVE

2011 Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward FINISHED

2010 Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (reviewed hereFINISHED

2009 Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (reviewed hereFINISHED

2008 Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen TBR SHELF

2007 Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson FINISHED

2006 The Echo Maker by Richard Powers FINISHED

2005 Europe Central by William T. Vollmann TBR SHELF

2004 The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck TBR SHELF

2003 The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard FINISHED

2002 Three Junes by Julia Glass FINISHED

2001 The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen FINISHED

2000 In America by Susan Sontag TBR SHELF

1999 Waiting by Ha Jin FINISHED

1998 Charming Billy by Alice McDermott FINISHED

1997 Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (reviewed hereFINISHED

1996 Ship Fever and Other Stories by Andrea Barrett FINISHED

1995 Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth FINISHED

1994 A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis

1993 The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx FINISHED

1992 All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (reviewed hereFINISHED

1991 Mating by Norman Rush FINISHED

1990 Middle Passage by Charles Johnson (reviewed hereFINISHED

1989 Spartina by John Casey FINISHED

1988 Paris Trout by Pete Dexter FINISHED

1987 Paco's Story by Larry Heinemann ON OVERDRIVE

1986 World's Fair by E.L. Doctorow TBR SHELF

1985 White Noise by Don Delillo ON OVERDRIVE

1984 Victory Over Japan by Ellen Gilchrist TBR SHELF

1983 The Color Purple by Alice Walker FINISHED

1982 Rabbit is Rich by John Updike FINISHED

1981 Plains Song by Wright Morris TBR SHELF

1980 Sophie's Choice by William Styron (reviewed hereFINISHED

1979 Going After Cacciato by Tim O'Brien FINISHED

1978 Blood Tie by Mary Lee Settle FINISHED

1977 The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner (reviewed hereFINISHED

1976 JR by William Gaddis

1975 The Hair of Harold Roux by Thomas Williams (reviewed hereFINISHED

1975 Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone FINISHED

1974 Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon ON OVERDRIVE

1974 A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer TBR SHELF

1973 Augustus by John Williams ON OVERDRIVE

1973 Chimera by John Barth TBR SHELF

1972 The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor TBR SHELF

1971 Mr. Sammler's Planet by Saul Bellow (reviewed hereFINISHED

1970 Them by Joyce Carol Oates TBR SHELF

1969 Steps by Jerzy Kosinski

1968 The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder ON OVERDRIVE

1967 The Fixer by Bernard Malamud (reviewed hereFINISHED

1966 The Collected Stories by Katherine Anne Porter TBR SHELF

1965 Herzog by Saul Bellow FINISHED

1964 The Centaur by John Updike (reviewed hereFINISHED

1963 Morte d'Urban by J.F. Powers FINISHED

1962 The Moviegoer by Walker Percy FINISHED

1961 The Waters of Kronos by Conrad Richter

1960 Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth (reviewed hereFINISHED

1959 The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud FINISHED

1958 Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever FINISHED

1957 The Field of Vision by Wright Morris TBR SHELF

1956 Ten North Frederick by John O'Hara FINISHED

1955 A Fable by William Faulkner

1954 The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (reviewed hereFINISHED

1953 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison FINISHED

1952 From Here to Eternity by James Jones FINISHED

1951 The Collected Stories by William Faulkner ON OVERDRIVE

1950 The Man with the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren (reviewed hereFINISHED


Updated October 26, 2023. This is a redo of the list I first posted in 2009. 

Hidden gems for me are Lord of MisruleThe Hair of Harold Roux, and Blood Tie.


If you would like your related posts to be listed here, please leave a comment with links to your reviews of these books or the like and I will add them here.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Humanity's Grace by Dede Montgomery -- BOOK BEGINNINGS


What book captured your fancy this week? Please share the opening sentence (or so) with us here on Book Beginnings on Fridays!


My Book Beginning this week is from a new book by an Oregon author I enjoy a lot, Dede Montgomery:

What happened in that last moment before the moment after? Paul's hands had shot up to cover his ears, their trembling fingers adorned by nails chewed down to the quick.

-- from Humanity's Grace by Dede Montgomery, out now from Bedazzled Ink. I wanted to give two sentences of that opening because the first sentence alone is too much of a brain twister!

Humanity's Grace is a collection of 15 linked short stories that reads like a novel. The stories are linked by characters that cross paths and their shared setting in contemporary Astoria, Oregon. They are also linked by their connection to a murder in the small, coastal community. 


Please link to your Book Beginning post, not your blog home page or social media profile page. If you post on or share to social media, please sue the hashtag #bookbeginnings so we can find each other. 

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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From Humanity's Grace

Anne hadn't been paying attention to all that he said. Her mind was preoccupied still with the struggle of reading job descriptions she was over qualified for but knew she could never land.

You can read my review of Humanity's Grace here

Salty air, low lying clouds, and crooning of seagulls near the towering Astoria Column and the flowing Columbia River set the scene for Humanity's Grace, a collection of linked short stories. Frank, Anne, Monica, and Sarah all reappear from the pages of Montgomery's novel, Beyond the Ripples. New characters: An elderly mother and her son, a police office and spouse, a childhood friend, a counselor, a bystander appear, are all uniquely connected to a murder in downtown Astoria, Oregon.

Frank's untimely death creates a spectrum of consequences for his loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers. The ensuing murder accusation throws a trio of characters into darkness, as they reassess earlier beliefs, past decisions and actions. Other characters are impacted in unique and unexpected ways. A police officer is haunted by his past. A young woman awakens from a vivid dream of a friend from before. A mother wonders what she did wrong. A son aches for others to be kind. A daughter questions her father's past, while her mother remembers parts of the man she had forgotten. A stranger ponders the significance of a message she's received.

The characters in Humanity's Grace intertwine as they laugh, scream, and cry, do good or create evil. Most of all, they meander through sorrow and sadness, joy and regret, as they remind the reader of the startling and collective beauty of life's connections.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Shoot the Moonlight Out by William Boyle -- BOOK REVIEW


Shoot the Moonlight Out by William Boyle (2021, Pegasus Books)

Shoot the Moonlight Out, the new neo noir thriller by William Boyle, starts in 1996 with two friends being stupid kids. Bobby and his friend Zeke think throwing rocks at cars on the Parkway is just a silly game until the inevitable tragedy brings an end to the fun. Fast forward to the summer of 2001. Bobby is now out of high school, dragging this soul-poisoning secret around with him, and working for a second-rate con man running a Ponzi scheme.

Destined to cross Bobby’s path is Jack, a seemingly mild-mannered widow raising his teen-aged daughter. But Jack also has a secret. He is a vigilante on the side, avenging neighborhood wrongs, and he is out to get Bobby’s boss.

There’s a locker stuffed with cash, Bobby is in love and wants out of his life of two-bit crime, Jack’s taking a writing class from Bobby’s former stepsister, and a lot more is going on. Multiple characters orbit and crisscross. While Boyle gives them individual personalities, they all are shady, shabby, or broken in some way. The book is dense with plot and characters.

The setting is as much a character as any of the people in the book. It’s south Brooklyn the day before yesterday, so there is a grey haze of gritty nostalgia over the whole thing. It’s clear that Boyle knows south Brooklyn down to the last crack in the sidewalk and he brings it to life for the reader.

All in all, Shoot the Moonlight Out is a gripping, character-driven crime novel, perfect for fans of urban noir. 


Here is an excerpt from another review I thought summed up Boyle's book quite well:
William Boyle knows how to craft a tight quilt of a plot while at the same time grounding that plot in a setting of wonderful richness. His Brooklyn is specific and clear and alive, a place he knows cold. He’s able to capture the messiness of life with the acuity of a dedicated realist, but he shapes that messiness in such a way that he keeps everything moving forward and toward a definitive resolution. Controlled and yet loose is how I would describe Shoot the Moonlight Out, and for my money, that’s a blend of two traits that’s no small achievement. [Shoot the Moonlight Out] is a novel that rings true down to the tiniest detail.
Criminal Element

Monday, January 17, 2022

James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction -- LIST



The James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction is one of the oldest and most prestigious book prizes. It has been awarded since 1919 for literature written in the English language. The award is based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The winner is chosen by two academic scholars in the English Department, with the assistance of PhD students.

I am not going to keep updating the winners after 2020. My enthusiasm for prize-winners is waning with the 2020s. I plan to focus my efforts on reading the winners up to 2020 then declare victory and move on to other bookish projects.

So far, I have read only 19 of the winners. The prize may offer literary prestige and £10,000, but it doesn't guarantee popular success or that your book will stay in print! Some of these are hard to find. Here is the list, with notes about whether I've finished a book, if it is on my TBR shelf, or if it available as an audiobook from my library:

2020 Lote by Shola von Reinhold

2019 Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann ON OVERDRIVE

2018 Crudo by Olivia Lang

2017 Attrib. and Other Stories by Eley Williams

2016 The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride FINISHED

2015 You Don’t Have to Live Like This by Benjamin Markovits 

2014 In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman ON OVERDRIVE

2013 Harvest by Jim Crace ON OVERDRIVE

2012 The Deadman's Pedal by Alan Warner
2010 The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli ON OVERDRIVE

2009 The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt ON OVERDRIVE

2008 The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (reviewed hereFINISHED

2007 Our Horses in Egypt by Rosalind Belben

2006 The Road by Cormac McCarthy

2005 Saturday by Ian McEwan FINISHED

2004 GB84 by David Peace

2003 Personality by Andrew O'Hagan

2002 The Corrections by Jonathon Franzen FINISHED

2001 Something Like a House by Sid Smith

2000 White Teeth by Zadie Smith FINISHED

1999 Renegade or Halo2 by Timothy Mo

1998 Master Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge TBR SHELF

1997 Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller TBR SHELF

1996 Last Orders by Graham Swift (FINISHED) and Justine by Alice Thompson

1995 The Prestige by Christopher Priest (reviewed hereFINISHED

1994 The Folding Star by Alan Hollinghurst TBR SHELF

1993 Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips

1992 Sacred Country by Rose Tremain

1991 Downriver by Iain Sinclair

1990 Brazzeville Beach by William Boyd (reviewed hereFINISHED

1989 A Disaffection by James Kelman

1988 A Season in the West by Piers Paul Read

1987 The Golden Bird: Two Orkney Stories by George Mackay Brown

1986 Persephone by Jenny Joseph

1985 Winter Garden by Robert Edric

1984 Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard and Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter TBR SHELF BOTH

1983 Allegro Postillions by Jonathan Keates

1982 On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin TBR SHELF

1981 Midnight's Children (reviewed here) and The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux FINISHED BOTH

1980 Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee

1979 Darkness Visible by William Golding TBR SHELF

1978 Plumb by Maurice Gee

1977 The Honorable Schoolboy by John le Carre TBR SHELF

1976 Doctor Copernicus by John Banville TBR SHELF

1975 The Great Victorian Collection by Brian Moore

1974 Monsieur, or The Prince Of Darkness by Lawrence Durrell TBR SHELF

1973 The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch TBR SHELF

1972 G by John Berger (reviewed hereFINISHED

1971 A Guest of Honour by Nadine Gordimer

1970 The Bird of Paradise by Lily Powell

1969 Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen TBR SHELF

1968 The Gasteropod by Maggie Ross

1967 Jerusalem the Golden by Margaret Drabble TBR SHELF

1966 Such by Christine Brooke-Rose and Langrishe, Go Down by Aidan Higgins TBR SHELF

1965 The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark (reviewed hereFINISHED

1964 The Ice Saints by Frank Tuohy TBR SHELF

1963 A Slanting Light by Gerda Charles

1962 Act of Destruction by Ronald Hardy

1961 The Ha-Ha by Jennifer Dawson TBR SHELF

1960 Imperial Caesar by Rex Warner

1959 The Devil's Advocate by Morris West TBR SHELF

1958 The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot by Angus Wilson

1957 At Lady Molly's by Anthony Powell FINISHED

1956 The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macauley FINISHED

1955 Mother and Son by Ivy Compton-Burnett

1954 The New Men TBR SHELF and The Masters FINISHED by C. P. Snow 

1953 Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy

1952 Men at Arms by Evelyn Waugh TBR SHELF

1951 Father Goose by W. C. Chapman-Mortimer

1950 Along the Valley by Robert Henriquez

1949 The Far Cry by Emma Smith

1948 The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene FINISHED

1947 Eustace and Hilda by L. P. Hartley TBR SHELF

1946 Poor Man's Tapestry by G. Oliver Onions

1945 Travellers by L. A. G. Strong

1944 Young Tom by Forrest Reid

1943 Tales From Bective Bridge by Mary Lavin

1942 Monkey by Wu Ch'eng-en (translation by Arthur Whaley)

1941 A House of Children by Joyce Cary

1940 The Voyage by Charles Morgan

1939 After Many a Summer Dies the Swan by Aldous Huxley FINISHED

1938 A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours by C. S. Forester

1937 Highland River by Neil M. Gunn

1936 South Riding by Winifred Holtby

1935 The Root and the Flower by L. H. Myers

1934 I, Claudius (FINISHED) and Claudius the God by Robert Graves ON OVERDRIVE

1933 England, Their England by A. G. Macdonell TBR SHELF

1932 Boomerang by Helen Simpson

1931 Without My Cloak by Kate O'Brien TBR SHELF

1930 Miss Mole by E. H. Young

1929 The Good Companions by J. B. Priestley

1928 Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon TBR SHELF

1927 Portrait of Clare by Francis Brett Young

1926 Adam's Breed by Radclyffe Hall

1925 The Informer by Liam O'Flaherty

1924 A Passage to India by E. M. Forster FINISHED

1923 Riceyman Steps by Arnold Bennett

1922 Lady Into Fox by David Garnett FINISHED

1921 Memoirs of a Midget by Walter de la Mare

1920 The Lost Girl by D. H. Lawrence

1919 The Secret City by Hugh Walpole TBR SHELF


This list is so long, and there are so many books on it that look good to me, that I plan to confine myself to completing the 20th Century winners only. I'll cut myself some slack and not try to keep up with the list into the 21st Century. I think I will adopt the same plan for several of the lists I'm working on. My heart is with mid-20th Century fiction so I'll stick with that. I get enough contemporary fiction as it is without keeping up with all the prize winners. 

Updated as of March 20, 2024. This is a redo of the list I originally posted in 2009. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The 2022 European Reading Challenge is up and running - sign up now!



It's time to sign up for the 2022 European Reading Challenge! Many of you have already signed up, but there is still time for those of you looking for a fun 2022 reading challenge. 

I put up the main challenge page last month but just realized I never posted about it. Sign up for the 2022 ERC challenge on the main challenge page HERE or click the challenge button above. 

2022 is the 10th anniversary of the European Reading Challenge. Join us to make the Grand Tour of Europe in books. The idea is to read books by different European authors or set in different European countries. 

Read the books of your choice, at the level you choose. You can sign up for the challenge to read 1 to 5 books. Want more of a challenge? Go for the Jet Setter Prize! The person who reads and reviews the most books -- each from a different country -- wins a prize.

The most books you can read for the challenge is 50 because there are 50 commonly recognized sovereign states of Europe:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.
2021 was the first year anyone managed to read books for all 50 countries. In prior years, no one came close. In 2021, at least three people made that impressive trek! Let's see who can make the journey in 2022.

CHANGE: One change in 2022 is that the challenge will run only until December 31, 2022. In years past, we always went an extra month and people could finish their books on January 31 of the following year. But that got too confusing! So starting with 2022 and the 10th anniversary, the deadline for reading all the challenge books is now December 31. Participants still have until January 31, 2023 to complete all their reviews and wrap up posts. I will announce the winner of the Jet Setter Prize in early February.


In 2022, I'm making another big push for readers to participate in the European Reading Challenge through social media, like Instagram, goodreads, Facebook, whatever works. We did this in 2021 for the first time and it was a lot of fun! 

Posts on IG, goodreads, Facebook, and other platforms generate URLs that work fine with Mr. Linky. If you need help finding the URL link, message me through the platform or leave a comment and I'll walk you through it.

If you participate on social media or share your blog posts on social media, please use the hashtag #europeanreadingchallenge. That makes it easier to find each other.

Please sign up on the main challenge page HERE, or click the button above. Please also encourage other people to sign up, through their blogs or social media. Even if they don't blog or socialize, they can join in with comments on the challenge pages.

Bon voyage!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Last Professional by Ed Davis -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



I hope your week is treating you well! Reading anything good this month?

What book are you sharing with us on Book Beginnings on Fridays? Please share the first sentence (or so). You can also share from a book you want to highlight, not a book you are reading. 


I got a copy of a new book by Ed Davis from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. Because the world is very small, I'm friends with Ed on Facebook. That's why the book caught my eye when I saw it on LibraryThing. Ed went to high school in Sonoma County with my husband. I've never met him IRL, but we chit chat on Facebook sometimes. 

Here are the opening sentences from Ed's new book:

Until the rails arrived virtually at their doorsteps, most people lived a day's walk of where they were born. America was smaller.

-- from The Last Professional by Ed Davis, which launches January 25 from Artemesia Publishing and is available for pre-order.

That is a terrific opening for a story about the last days of jumping trains and and living on the road. It is a novel about a young man fleeing his past who teams up with an old loner. An old enemy pursues them, things turn deadly, and the story rolls out against an American landscape bounded by railroad tracks. It looks like an old-fashioned page turner. 


Please link to the Book Beginnings post on your blog or social media. If you post on or link to social media, please use the #bookbeginnigns hashtag.

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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From The Last Professional:
Men moved from the barracks to the tower, clean men with freshly scraped faces and slicked-back hair. From the yard came other men, smudged and tired, who climbed the barracks steps with lead feet, waved to friends with lead hands.
I think I'm going to enjoy this one. What do you think from these teasers?

An American story! The Duke, near the end of his days, sees his way of life and the code he follows disappearing. Lynden is on the brink of a new beginning but cannot embrace it without confronting the traumas of his past. And a maniac is intent on destroying them both. Bonds are formed, secrets exposed, sacrifices made all against an American landscape of promise and peril. Three unforgettable characters, hurtling toward a climax where pasts and futures collide, and lives hang in the balance.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Murder at the Castle by M. B. Shaw -- BOOK REVIEW


Murder at the Castle by M. B. Shaw (2020, Pegasus Books)

Iris Grey is an up-and-coming portrait painter whose last commission landed her in the news – as much for her sleuthing skills as her brush work – when the subject of her painting was murdered. Now Baron Jock MacKinnon, Laird of Pitfeldy Castle, has hired her to paint the portrait of his fiancée as a wedding present for the stunning American socialite. Jock doesn’t know that his betrothed, Kathy Miller, wants Iris to investigate a series of threatening notes warning her to call off the wedding.

Iris heads up to Pitfeldy, on the Scottish coast north of Aberdeen. She rents an AirBnB in the quaint fishing village and settles in to paint Jock’s soon-to-be third Lady Pitfeldy. But when two dead bodies turn up in the ruined bothy, Iris finds herself once more called to solve a murder mystery.

Murder at the Castle has everything required for a modern-day mystery paying homage to the Golden Age. Iris makes a likeable, suitably quirky and independent amateur sleuth. There is a complicated plot involving several potential suspects, a village full of buried secrets, a collection of feuding family members, a church fair in the village, parties at the castle, and a sympathetic local policeman. Add in a romantic subplot and a side trip to Italy to liven things up. There are a couple of loose threads that don’t so much need tying up as just tucked back into the fuzzy weave of this cozy mystery, but that is a quibble. 

All in all, Murder at the Castle is a completely satisfying puzzler.


Get a taste for Murder at the Castle on Book Beginnings on Fridays where you can read the opening sentence and a Friday 56 teaser from page 56.

Murder at the Castle is the second book in M. B. Shaw’s Iris Grey series, following Murder at the Mill.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Humanity's Grace by Dede Montgomery -- BOOK REVIEW



Humanity's Grace by Dede Montgomery (2021, Bedazzled Ink)

Short stories, linked by a murder, set on the Oregon coast. I’m in!

Humanity's Grace, the new book by Dede Montgomery, author of Beyond the Ripples, is out now in ebook and paperback. Humanity's Grace revisits several of the characters in Beyond the Ripples but is a rich tale in its own right.

An untimely death in downtown Astoria, Oregon is the center point for this collection of 15 linked short stories that reads like a novel. Montgomery uses the murder to bring out the connections – present and past – between the inspecting officer, suspects, townspeople, and other characters. The stories are filled with “real people” moments, good and bad, scenes that remind us of our shared humanity by showing us how we should act or how not to act.

Each story explores the small details – an encounter at the beach, a long ago attempted crime, family arguments, past friends – out of which we weave our lives and our communities. Read together, these 15 stories pack a big emotional punch.


Dede Montgomery described her earlier book, Beyond the Ripples, like this:

Ultimately, this book explores the connections formed between people. I believe that the universe works in a way that offers us multitudes of opportunities to connect and experience others, especially when we pay attention. Beyond the Ripples is also about the power of friendship, and the regrets and choices dotting family relationships. It is about secrets and how we all are given opportunities to forgive, learn, love, and move on. My own childhood act of writing a note, putting it in a bottle, and launching it into the Willamette River gave me the initial inspiration for the beginning of the novel. While an older man living downriver did answer my letter, this novel allowed me to imagine what else could come from something as simple as answering a letter from someone you don’t know.

Read my entire earlier interview with Dede Montgomery from when Beyond the Ripples came out here.  

Here is my short review of Beyond the Ripples:

Various characters come together after one finds a note in a bottle in the Columbia River. Beyond the Ripples is a novel of small town secrets, life choices, and family dramas that pulls you along from the first page. Fans of Maeve Binchey and Anne Tyler will really enjoy this Pacific Northwest version of their kind of engaging, heartfelt stories.

Read more about Humanity's Grace and Beyond the Ripples on Dede Montgomery's blog. You will also find updates on book events, including the upcoming launch party for Humanity's Grace.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Preyed Upon and Under the Orange Blossoms -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



Happy new year! And welcome to the first Books Beginnings on Fridays of 2022! Thank you for joining us to share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week -- or just a book you want to highlight. 

Do you have any particular reading plan for 2022? Did you make any bookish reading resolutions? 

I signed up for a handful of reading challenges, which are more like reading guideposts than plans or resolutions. For those of you who join in the 2022 European Reading Challenge here on Rose City Reader -- THANK YOU! 2022 is the 10th anniversary of the ERC and the challenge that brings me the most joy to see all the participants that come back year after year to tour Europe in books. 

I'm also back for a second year with a TBR challenge that matches the calendar. The TBR 22 in '22 Challenge helps participants clear off their shelves by reading 22 books they already owned before New Year's Day. 

I hope you join me for one or both of these Rose City Reader challenges!

Now, back to our Book Beginnings!


I have a Books Beginnings two-fer to start the new year, because I got two similar books recently. Both are memoirs by abuse survivors seeking to help others by sharing their stories.

I couldn't believe I was back in his office. 

-- from Chapter One, "The Office Visit," in Preyed Upon: Breaking Free from Therapist Abuse by Amy Nordhues. 

I pop a warm orange slice into my mouth and methodically eat it to distract myself from the pain. 

-- from Chapter One, "Slices of Sunshine," in Under The Orange Blossoms: An Inspirational Story of Bravery and Strength by Cindy Benezra. 

Amy Nordhues was groomed and abused as a young adult by the church-based psychiatrist she went to for help with depression. Cindy Benezra was abused as a child by her father. Both struggled with the ongoing trauma of their abuse, especially the shame and self-blame they carried with them.

After much work brought them both their own healing and peace, Nordhues and Benezra wanted to write memoirs to share their stories. These memoirs are written primarily for abuse survivors. But they are comforting to anyone who has faced trauma and helpful for anyone supporting trauma survivors. 

I work with sex abuse survivors, so these memoirs ring true to me. I have cases going on right now working with survivors of people abused by their therapists when they were adults and many who were abused when they were children. It has been a hair on fire week for me with the Boy Scout bankruptcy hitting the skids because I have a lot of clients involved in that case. It is good news that the proposed plan did not get enough votes in favor from abuse survivors, for anyone following the story.


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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From Preyed Upon:
"Oh, I didn't realize psychiatrists did counseling."
"Oh, yes, getting to know my patients on a more intimate level drew me to this profession."
From Under the Orange Blossoms:
My racing heart draws my attention to my tight chest. I gently massage my chest to dissipate the tension. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

2022 European Reading Challenge - My Sign Up Post




To sign up yourself (and I hope you do), go to the main challenge page here. 

2022 is the 10th anniversary of the European Reading Challenge! This is my sign up post. I'm signing up for the "FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE)" level to read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries. But because it is the 10th anniversary, I actually plan to read books from ten different countries.


You do not have to pick your books ahead of time, but I picked a few because I like to play with my books. I may or may not get to the books in the picture above. I took that picture for some Instagram inspiration for a post I did about the European Reading Challenge. The books I'm planning to read for this challenge are:

UK: These Ruins are Inhabited by Margaret Beadle, a memoir by an American living in England in the 1950s.
RUSSIA: The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakow, on my Classics Club list.
FRANCE: French Women Don't get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.
GERMANY: The Wall by John Hersey, on my Classics Club list.
CZECH REPUBLIC: The Prague Orgy by Philip Roth
ITALY: The Spring by Megan Weiler

I hope to visit more countries in Scandinavia, the Baltics, and the Balkans. Perhaps I will get to Zorba the Greek for Greece and Olivia Manning's Balkans Trilogy for Rumania. 


JANUARY 1, 2022 TO DECEMBER 31, 2022
(new deadline!)

The European Reading Challenge has been around since 2012 so 2022 is the ten year anniversary! The idea is to tour Europe in books by reading books written by authors from different European countries or set in different European countries. You pick the books, the countries, and how many books you want to read. You can complete the challenge by reading 1 to 5 books, depending on what level of participation you chose.

If you want to read more, you can compete for the Jet Setter Prize. The prize goes to the person who reads and reviews the greatest number of books from DIFFERENT countries. Only one book from each country counts towards the prize, so the greatest number of books that could be read is 50, because there are 50 official sovereign states in Europe:
Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

2022 Audiobook Challenge -- My Sign Up Post



So far in 2022, I've finished 34 audiobooks, so I'm on track to reach my challenge goal of reading 50+ audiobooks this year! See list below.


Caffeinated Reviewer and That’s What I’m Talking About host a popular audiobook challenge every year, although 2022 will be only the second time I have participated. I am signing up at the Marathoner level to read 50 or more audiobooks in 2022. 

I love reading with my ears! I download audiobooks from the library to my phone using the Libby app and listen all the time. In good weather, I like to walk to work, which gives me a good hour of audiobook reading in a day. I also listed when I drive, cook, fold laundry, and do other chores. In 2021, I read 131 books and 70 of them were audiobooks. 

One thing I started doing was to combine my love of audiobooks with my desire to clear book books off my TBR shelves. I went through my TBR list, found which ones were available as audiobooks from the library, and put them on my Libby wishlist. It may seem odd to listen to the audiobook when I have the physical book already, but I have soooooooooo many book books on my shelves that it would take me years to get to all of them. If I can free up shelf space (and brain space) by reading a book with my ears and getting rid of the paper book, I'm happy. 


I don't know which books I will read yet for this challenge. But these audiobooks are on my phone or my hold list on Libby right now, so they are likely first candidates. I put them on hold because they are the books my Book Club picked for our 2022 reads, they are on my TBR shelf, I went down a Lian Moriarty rabbit hole, or pure whim.

  • The Falls by Ian Rankin (TBR shelf) FINISHED
  • The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz FINISHED
  • Lucky by Marissa Stapley (Book Club) FINISHED

  • The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney FINISHED
  • Trio by William Boyd FINISHED


Updated July 7, 2022 in time for the Mid-Year Check In. So far, I've finished 34 audiobooks in 2022, so am definitely on track to read over 50 for the year. 

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