Amber’s List Of….

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Okay, so here’s the deal.

I cannot confine a decade’s worth of favorites to one simple list — my entire being revolts at the thought. I am also uninterested in inducing a biblio-anxiety by attempting to do so!

So instead, I decided to create a series of short lists of my hands down, all-out favorites that I first read between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2019. Whether or not they were published between those two dates is entirely incidental.

(Though I did make a separate list for those titles. See below.)

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List numero uno: Faves published & read between the aforementioned dates –

      1. The Rook – Daniel O’Malley
      2. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
      3. Written In Red – Anne Bishop

This was a close call but ultimately I chose The Rook because Ms. Thomas helped save herself while fending off some purple spores and rescued a possibly omniscient bunny!

List 2: Entire Contemporary Series I Burned Thru, Still Reread and Love –

      1. Aunt Dimity – Nancy Atherton
      2. The Parasol Protectorate (and that entire Universe) – Gail Carriger
      3. Mrs. Pollifax – Dorothy Gilman
      4. Mercy Thompson – Patricia Briggs
      5. Chicagoland Vampires – Chloe Neill
      6. Mrs. Malory – Hazel Holt

#3 – Agatha Christie: She deserves a list all to herself otherwise, she’d whoop everyone else! Can you believe my year with her was all the way back in 2014?

      1. Nemesis – Miss Marple
      2. Pale Horse – Ariadne Oliver (tangentially)
      3. Endless Night
      4. Cards At The Table – Oliver, Poirot, Race & Battle
      5. The Moving Finger – Miss Marple
      6. A Murder Is Announced – Miss Marple
      7. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Hercule Poirot
      8. Murder Is Easy – Mr. Harley Quin & Superintendent Battle
      9. Man In A Brown Suit – Colonel Race
      10. By The Pricking of My Thumbs – Tommy & Tuppence

**And Then There Was None is a masterpiece of suspense. So to give her other books a chance, I left it off! I also left off The Sleeping Murder as I’d read it well before this last decade!

4) Golden Age Favorites: Now, I loved all the books these authors wrote. However, these are my particular favorites within their series –

      1. Somewhere in the House – Elizabeth Daly
      2. Murder For Christmas – Francis Duncan
      3. Death In The Stocks – Georgette Heyer

List No. 5: My Favorite Historical Series I Devoured As Fast as I Found Them –

      1. Amelia Peabody – Elizabeth Peters
      2. Her Royal Spyness – Rhys Bowen
      3. Lady Julia Grey – Deanna Raybourn
      4.  Amory Ames – Ashley Weaver

List Number Six: Favorite Short Story Collections –

      1. Mr. Harley Quin – Agatha Christie
      2. The Black Widowers – Issac Asimov
      3. Sherlock Holmes – Doyle
      4. The Teahouse Detective – Baroness Orczy

Last But Not Least: My favorite YA/Kids books –

      1. The Last Dragon Slayer – Jasper Fforde
      2. Tokyo Heist – Diana Renn
      3. Goldenhand – Garth Nix
      4. Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson

And even with all the books I’ve listed on here, I still feel like I’ve missed a few….sigh….And its also readily apparent I tend towards a certain flavor of mystery – and I’m all right with that!

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Don’t forget you still have time to catch up on my other blog Finder of Lost Things before series two starts in a couple months!

January 2020

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WELCOME TO A NEW YEAR

WELCOME TO A NEW DECADE

We’ve recently learned that Sandy, the creator and original editor of our quarterly newsletter and one-time bookkeeper, has moved back to town.

Welcome Back! We hope to see you soon.

‘It’s really flattering’: Obama picks Spokane’s Jess Walter for favorite books of the year list

Extra! Extra! Pike Place Market newsstand to close after 40 years

      Serious Stuff

Bone-Marrow Transplants Alter Genetic IDs, Complicating DNA-Based Criminal Analysis

Henry Lee Lucas Was Considered America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. But He Was Really a Serial Liar.

Evidence Scandal In Orange County Stirs Conflict Within Law Enforcement 

How This Con Man’s Wild Testimony Sent Dozens to Jail, and 4 to Death Row

Is this cave painting humanity’s oldest story? 

Stop Believing in Free Shipping 

Prime Leverage: How Amazon Wields Power in the Technology World ~ Software start-ups have a phrase for what Amazon is doing to them: ‘strip-mining’ them of their innovations. 

New Research Identifies Possible Mass Graves From 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre


From The Guardian’s Editor’s Best Stories of 2019: ‘Blood on their hands’: the intelligence officer whose warning over white supremacy was ignored

This Is America: Eleven years after Obama’s election, and three years into the Trump presidency, the threat of domestic terrorism can’t be ignored.


A group of self-taught investigators is confronting the limits of using DNA and genetic genealogy to identify victims.

      Words of the Month

vade-mecum (n.) “a pocket manual, handbook,” 1620s, Latin, literally “go with me;” from imperative of vadere “to go” (see vamoose) + me “me” + cum “with.” 

      Book Stuff

An Algorithm Can Tell Us How Much Shakespeare Was Actually Written by Shakespeare

In Greenwich Village, the Perfect New York Bookstore Lives On

Latin Dictionary’s Journey: A to Zythum in 125 Years (and Counting)

Janet Evanovich wins big with Stephanie Plum series and TV deals 

Alaska: Northern Noir ~ Crime fiction has found a strange home in the cold wilds of Alaska. (have to say these people are way behind the curve if they think this is new…)

Couth Buzzard Books, celebrating a milestone anniversary, has become the ‘Cheers’ of Greenwood

The Ferrante Effect’: In Italy, Women Writers Are Ascendant ~“My Brilliant Friend” and Elena Ferrante’s other best-selling books are inspiring female novelists and shaking up the country’s male-dominated literary establishment.

New book claims Albert Camus was murdered by the KGB 

7 Things Crime Readers Will No Longer Tolerate by Christopher Fowler

Get Radcliff!: The Search for Black Pulp’s Forgotten Author. Gary Phillips on the trail of Roosevelt Mallory, who helped revolutionize 1970s pulp fiction, then disappeared.

From Gar Anthony Haywood: I Wrote the Kind of Character I Wanted Most to Read About

The Elements of the Haunted House: A Primer or, How to Build a Haunted House Mystery from the Ground Up 

Jeff Lindsay Has a New Anti-Hero ~ The Dexter Author Talks Craft, Character, and Cannibalism 

Peter Pan’s dark side emerges with release of original manuscript 

George RR Martin opens bookshop next to his cinema in Santa Fe 

America 2019: Area man steals rare books in order to pay for cancer treatment. 

How Do Some Authors “Lose Control” of Their Characters?

The (Quiet) Death of a Legendary Parisian Bookstore

These are the 10 Best-Selling Books of the Decade

From Portland, another bookshop closes: Another Read Through is leaving Mississippi Avenue

Do apostrophes still matter?

The tricks that can turn you into a speed reader

Booksellers get holiday bonuses from James Patterson  

Rediscovering Dorothy B. Hughes’ Brutal Hollywood Take-Down, Dread Journey 

A Romance Novelist Spoke out about Racism. An Uproar Ensued

Here are the most popular books checked out of the Seattle Public Library in 2019

       Author Events

January 11 – Candace Robb and Kim Zarins, 4pm, UBooks

January 21 – Chad Dundas, 7:30pm, Powell’s

January 29 – Mary Wingate, 7pm, Village Books

January 30 – Russell Rowland, 7:30pm, Powell’s

      Other Forms of Fun

Motherless Brooklyn: Ed Norton on the film it took him 20 years to make 

How Olga Kurylenko Won ‘Bond’ and Narrowly Lost ‘Wonder Woman’

The Evolution of the Femme Fatale in Film Noir

The Bone Collector, Jeffery Deaver’s first book with forensic anthropologist Lincoln Rhyme, was made into a 1999 film staring Denzel Washington as Rhyme and Angelina Jolie as the young cop who becomes his “legman”. Rhyme is a quadraplegic and needs Amelia Sachs to visit the crime scenes. The books are a true updating of the armchair detective story – it’s a great series. Now, starting Friday, Jan. 10, the book comes to the smaller screen when ‘Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector’ debuts on NBC. As they say, check your local listings!

The Most Underrated Crime Films of the Decade

Coming in February: ‘Narcos: Mexico’: Scoot McNairy Hunts Diego Luna in Season 2 First Look 

From “Making a Murderer” to “Don’t F**k with Cats,” the evolution of true crime this decade

BioShock returns for more gene-enhanced gaming

      Words of the Month

Ignis fatuus: a light that sometimes appears in the night over marshy ground and is often attributable to the combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter or a deceptive goal or hope.

Ignis fatuus is a Latin term meaning, literally, “foolish fire.” In English, it has come to designate a hovering or flitting light that sometimes appears in the night over marshy ground that is attributable to the combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter. Other names for this light are jack-o’-lantern and will-o’-the-wisp—both of which are connected to folklore about mysterious men, Jack and Will, who carry a lantern or a wisp of light at night. A Scottish name for ignis fatuus is spunkie, from spunk, meaning “spark” or “a small fire.” It has also been told that ignes fatui (the Latin plural form) are roaming souls. No doubt these stories spooked listeners by candlelight, but in time, advancements in science not only gave us electricity to dispel the darkness but proved ignis fatuus to be a visible exhalation of gas from the ground, which is rarely seen today.

‘But thou art altogether given over, / and wert indeed, but for the light in thy face, the son of utter / darkness. When thou ran’st up Gadshill in the night to catch my / horse, if I did not think thou hadst been an ignis fatuus or a / ball of wildfire, there’s no purchase in money. O, thou art a / perpetual triumph, an everlasting bonfire-light! ‘

— William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1, ca. 1597

(Thanks to Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

       Links of Interest

November 26: Lee Child: How Jack Reacher Fits Into a Long History of Folk Heroes

December 2: Great Film Composers: The Music of the Movies: How the rise of the Nazis gave us the best film noir music

December 2: Judge tosses $71-million verdict against NBC Universal over ‘Columbo’ profits

December 2: ‘The Irishman’ Left Out the Full Story of the Disastrous Angelo Bruno and Frank Sidone Murders

December 3: ‘He Had It Coming’ looks back on the ‘Murderess Row’ that inspired ‘Chicago’

December 4: Five ‘hot mic’ moments that got leaders in trouble

December 5: The murdered ‘handsome’ priest with a decades-long secret

December 5: Spassky vs Fischer: How the chess battle became a theatre event

December 6: How to conquer work paralysis like Ernest Hemingway

December 9: Perfect’ Scotch whisky collection could be worth £8m

December 10: Failed plot to steal domain name at gunpoint brings 14-year prison term

December 11: “Portrait of a Lady” ~ Stolen Klimt mystery ‘solved’ by gardener in Italy

December 11: Art Forgery Is Easier Than Ever, and It’s a Great Way to Launder Money

December 11: Buyer returns Grease jacket to Olivia Newton-John after auction

December 12: The CIA’s Former Chief of Disguise Drops Her Mask

December 13: Hosting an Orgy? This 1970s Cookbook Has You Covered

December 13: Octopus and eagle square off at Canadian fish farm

December 16: Christopher Reeve’s ‘Superman’ Cape Sells at Auction, Sets Record

December 16: Mice watching film noir show the surprising complexity of vision cells

December 16: Babe Ruth: Baseball player’s landmark home run bat fetches $1m\

December 16: Meet a Bad Man Who Became a Truly Great Spy

December 16: Grave of top Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich opened in Berlin

December 17: A New Way of Looking at ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

December 17: Judge rules in favor of US effort to take Snowden book money

December 19: James Blake uses unseen Planet Earth footage in new video

December 19: Is the Netherlands becoming a narco-state?

December 20: Democratic lawmakers pushed Spy Museum to alter CIA torture exhibit\

December 21: Police department finds furry culprit behind toy theft

December 22: Take a look behind the ‘small doors to imaginary spaces’ within bookshelves

December 22: The night Samuel Beckett was nearly stabbed to death by a pimp

December 23: LS Lowry: Lost painting to go on sale after 70 years

December 23: I was a teenage code-breaker at Bletchley Park

December 23: Daniel Craig Wanted to Resign as Bond After ‘Spectre’. Here’s the Real Reason He Returned For ‘No Time to Die’

December 27: Sriracha hot sauce recall over ‘exploding’ bottle fears

December 31: Lawyers: Robert Durst Wrote Incriminating ‘Cadaver’ Note

December 31: Human remains found in Idaho cave identified as outlaw who died over 100 years ago

      Words of the Month

terroir: the combination of factors including soil, climate, and sunlight that gives wine grapes their distinctive character. First known use was in 1863. From Old French tieroir, from Vulgar Latin *terratorium, alteration of Latin territorium. (thanks to Merriam-Webster) [what a difference and “i” makes…]

      R.I.P.

December 3: D.C. Fontana, famed writer for Star Trek, dies at 80

December 7: Friends actor Ron Leibman dies at the age of 82

December 8:  Winston Lawson, Secret Service agent with JFK in Dallas, dies at 91

December 8: Caroll Spinney: Sesame Street’s Big Bird puppeteer dies

December 9: Overlooked No More: Rose Mackenberg, Houdini’s Secret ‘Ghost-Buster’

December 9: Battle of Britain pilot Maurice Mounsdon dies aged 101

December 10: George Laurer, an Inventor of the Modern Bar Code, Dies at 94

December 11: Jeanne Guillemin, pioneering researcher who uncovered a Cold War secret, dies at 76

December 13: Danny Aiello, beloved character actor and Oscar nominee for ‘Do the Right Thing,’ dies at 86

December 13: Elisabeth Sifton, editor and tamer of literary lions, dies at 80

December 16: Nicky Henson: Stage and screen actor 

December 20: Claudine Auger: French actress known for Thunderball role dies aged 78

December 20: Acclaimed Author and Journalist Ward Just Dead at 84

December 25: Allee Willis: ‘Friends’ theme songwriter

December 26: Sue Lyon, teenage star of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Lolita,’ is dead at 73

December 31: Sonny Mehta, visionary editor and head of Alfred A. Knopf, dies at 77

December 31: M. C. BEATON: R.I.P.

      Words of The Month

vamoose (v.): “to decamp, be off,” 1834, from Spanish vamos “let us go,” from Latin vadamus, first person plural indicative of vadere “to go, to walk, go hastily,” from Proto-Indo-European root *wadh- (2) “to go” (source also of Old English wadan “to go,” Latin vadum “ford;” see wade (v.)). (thanks to etymonline)

      What We’ve Been Up To

   Amber

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Finder of Lost Things

This coming Friday we come to the last post for series one! Can you believe it? And we will see how Phoebe and Joseph cope with the after effects of the Woman In White’s attack.

Series Two – will drop in about two-ish months. I will give you guys plenty of warning when I’m going to start posting! Though on the upside if you haven’t started reading my story yet – this is the perfect time to catch up!

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Chloe Neill – Wicked Hour

The second book in the Heirs of Chicagoland series is a fun, fast-paced romp that is stronger than its predecessor by a factor of five. While a few of the original cast make their presence felt, they only enter into the narrative when necessary. Rather than making gratuitous and/or distracting appearances – which is really lovely.

The mystery presented in the second installment is also solid. Part of the Pack living in Northern Michigan is experiencing problems…and that’s putting it mildly. So Connor Keene, heir apparent to his father’s position as Apex, is sent to figure out what exactly is going on.

What he finds is a hornet’s nest.

Into this mess of resentment, issues, and anger Conner’s also brought, Elisa Sullivan. Because if things aren’t already stressful enough, let’s bring along the girl you’re more than just a little interested in and see how the pack reacts.

Elisa is more than capable of staring down a few shifters – katana in hand.

Then we get to the murder…and the other murder…and bad magic.

Seriously this book was a whole lotta fun to read. Neill introduced us to a quasi-new character named Alexei Breckenridge – who next to Lulu and Elisa’s cat Eleanor of Aquitaine (who will exact revenge if called by anything less than her full title) – is my favorite thus far. Mostly due to his dry sense of humor, the fact he enjoys needling Elisa by continuing to sneak up on her and the fact you never know where any of his sentences will take you.

If you are looking for a new-ish shifter/sorcerer/vampire mystery series to read, without needing to go back and read the original Chicagoland series (which honestly you should because it was great), you should start with Wicked Hour!

   Fran

I’ve been trying to figure out how to sell M. R. Carey‘s post-apocalyptic thriller THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (Orbit) to myself, if I was still selling books. Because on the surface, I’d have turned it down, despite the whole post-apocalyptic thing. I guess it’s a “Trust me” book.

9780316334754See, it’s written in present tense, and we all know how weird I am about that. But worse, it’s about zombies. I really don’t like zombies. Bleah. I know lots of people do love them, and they’ll jump all over this book, but I find them boring.

However, I really do like the TV series “Lucifer”, and M. R. Carey is the writer behind that. He creates amazing, three dimensional and compelling characters, and I’m a sucker for great characters! And twisty, well told stories. He does those brilliantly.

Oh, short synopsis, yeah. In this devastated future in a military base in England, children are strapped into wheelchairs, arms, legs and heads. Then they’re wheeled into classrooms where they’re taught all the things school children learn. Melanie is about ten years old, and her favorite teacher is Miss Justineau. Miss Justineau makes learning fun, and she really interacts with the children. Melanie loves Miss Justineau, the other teachers not so much.

However, outside the base, things are  bleak. A fungus, Ophiocordyceps, has mutated – or has been mutated – so that it no longer just infects ants, and has taken over mankind. Well, most of mankind. And the fungal infection moves quickly, thoroughly, no chance of recovery ever, and makes  the new hosts mindless and hungry.

I don’t want to say too much more because THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS takes off at breakneck speed, and it really doesn’t slow down. M. R. Carey understands timing and plot and tension, but he also understands how complicated people are, and how powerful love can be.

So yeah, this is a “Trust me” book, but I really do want you to trust me on it! The science is disturbingly cool (I kind of want to watch the David Attenborough documentary about the ants, but I’m afraid it’ll just creep me out), the story revolves around a teacher and her pupil, and the writing is simply brilliant.

Trust me.

   JB

Shop dream on the morning of Xmas Eve: what I remember was looking into a box of books, a shipment all jumbled together, and realizing that reserves hadn’t been pulled so I was digging through the books and flipping pages in the reserve book, trying to match up authors to lists of customers who wanted a copy. The books in the box were in no special order, so I was flipping back and forth in the reserve book as I fished out a hardcover, for some reason not taking all the books out first and organizing them… Where do these dreams come from !

Could there be a better way to end the year, and to relax over a few days away, that to catch up on a 9780802129307.jpg favorite author’s book you’d missed???? I doubt it, I really do.

I had ordered what I thought was his latest book last Spring to take on a trip back to KC but it ended up being the story from the year before. What the hell – I read it again on the trip, the books are that good. So it had always stuck in some shadowed part of my brain that there must’ve been a DeMarco from this year that I’d not read. Finally, I started to wonder when there’d a be a new one next year and that’s when I finally cleared to mush from my cabasa and got a copy of House Arrest.

It’s a very different DeMarco story, even while it is another great DeMarco story.

Arrested for the murder of a congressman in the Capital, DeMarco sits in jail with a target on his forehead. In many ways, this is Emma’s book, as she swings into action to prove he was framed. To do that, she’s gotta provide the FBI with the real killer. So she relies on her years of training and work and those she’s gotten to know to save DeMarco. Why? She abhors his love of baseball and golf, thinks his wardrobe is ridiculous, and is pained to know he works for a man she detests but, really, Emma likes DeMarco. She appreciates his spirit, his ethic, and his willingness to put himself in the line of fire to help someone – as he has with Emma a couple of times.

There are big changes in DeMarco’s life mandated by publicity of the arrest and I have no idea where Mike will put him. It could be the end of the series – any of books could – but I think he has freed DeMarco to do other things.

And I can’t wait.


Fridays in January ~ Our Best of the Decade Lists



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October Supplemental!

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Amber Here!

Fall brings many delightful things, colorful leaves, pumpkin spice everything and a cornucopia of new releases! So many in fact I cannot wait to share them with you guys.

So here’s the first in a string of single book reviews, hope they help you sort out your to-be-read stacks!

(And btw don’t forget to check out my other blog – Finder Of Lost Things!)

Chloe Neill – Wild Hunger

An Heirs Of Chicagoland Novel

Twenty years have passed since we last visited Chicago – the food is still great, the Cubs are still swinging, and supernatural politics are still tricky. The biggest change? The Houses are no longer allowed to investigate supernatural crimes which occur in their fair city – the Ombudsmen’s office scrutinizes all (which means Merit’s hung up her katana). This arrangement has worked out well, due to the peace struck by Master Ethan Sullivan and his Sentinal Merit with Chicago and its other supernatural residents.

This peace is a blueprint for other, more troubled, regions in the world. One of the places looking to forge their own peace accord? The vampire Houses of Western Europe, who’ve all agreed to treat Chicago as neutral territory, where they can attempt to hammer out their own peace accord. It doesn’t hurt that all the Houses in Chicago are well armed and well trained (plus the Pack) and are ready to keep everyone honest.

What does this mean to the daughter of Ethan and Merit? Who happens to be completing her year of armed service for a Parisian House in exchange for a college education? She’s going home.

Elisa Sullivan should feel thrilled at the prospect of seeing her family and friends again, and she does…But setting foot in Chicago also fills her with trepidation. Because Elisa has a secret, a secret linked to the magic which enabled her mother to carry her to term (Elisa’s unlike any other vampire in the world because she was born, not made).

Unfortunately, this secret isn’t Elisa’s only problem or even her biggest headache. That honor belongs to the less than popular member of one of the delegations who gets murdered literally in her parent’s backyard – which threatens to unravel the entire summit.

Then there’s the Faries…and the heir-apparent of the Pack…all of whom seem intent on throwing wrenches into the works…

This book is the first in a new series which features the next generation of the supernaturals of the Chicagoland series (I mean it is the description of the series).

This premise puts Neill in a tricky position writing-wise.

Creating whole new stories set in and amongst an already existing landscape is tricky. Because Neill needed to incorporate the pillars of the original series, many of whom are immortal (or really difficult to kill – which amounts to the same thing) while writing unique new characters to follow on their heels.

On the whole, Neill pulled it off well.

Wild Hunger does an excellent job of hinting around at exciting future storylines while echoing earlier themes of the original series. All the while following clues to resolve the fast-paced mystery being investigated by our new heroine. Perhaps Wild Hunger has a bit of the soft-reboot blues, the need to pay homage to the old guard weighing the narrative down slightly. BUT I am confident this slight flaw will be cleared up in the next installment allowing the shiny new cast to go their own way – with the original players making cameos when needed.

And I cannot wait until the next one is released! (BTW I inhaled this book in one sitting!)

Wild Hunger is a fun, fast read and I highly recommend it. Neill does a great job in quietly catching up a new reader with the backstory without boring her longtime readers (which is a huge feat in and of itself!). Anyone who’s looking for an entertaining supernatural mystery this Halloween season should give this book a try! (Plus, if you’re intimidated by a huge series, Wild Hunger allows you to leap into Chicagoland without reading Neill’s entire catalog. But I warn you if you love Wild Hunger you might be tempted to go back and start Some Girls Bite!)