Saturday, March 29, 2014

When summers (and other things) aren't quite what they seem

Last week it seemed like summer was on its way. Taking time from weeding words from manuscripts, I crouched in old jeans to tackle the dandelions instead. The flowerbeds, those I got to anyway, have never looked so ready for summer sun. And then it rained. The sound of birdsong's gone again in the endless dripping haze. Squirrels have wisely gone back to sleep. And roads are tangled with branches fallen from trees--wouldn't you think they'd run out of loose limbs to drop on us eventually? The back yard's pretty tangled too. I'll be regretting filling the wheely bin with weeds when the sun comes back. Still, at least the rain gives me more time to read, even if neither flowerbeds nor Galilee's Gift are fully weeded yet. So grab a coffee and choose yourself a book. Or choose the book first, so I can recommend the perfect coffee for the tale.

My first is set in a very real world where everyday assumptions show there's more than meets the eye, even to rather down-and-out scary neighbors. Just like last week's summer that came before spring had really arrived, Norman, in A Man Called Norman, by Mike Adkins, is not quite what he seems. Mike feels called by faith to undertake a reluctant friendship, and both men turn out to have much to teach and to learn. A Christian memoir of real life that offers a nicely balanced view of the author's experience, A Man Called Norman is a quick intriguing read to enjoy with a 3-star well-balanced cup of coffee.

Motherhood isn't quite what it seems in The Memory Child, by Steena Holmes, which opens with a woman struggling to remember why she was so reluctant to bear a child. Deeply in love with her baby, she finds the thought of going back to work has lost its haunting allure. But what about the loving husband, so eager to become a father? We read his tale and wonder why he's still so far away. And then we learn. A rich, elegant 4-star coffee will go well with this unsettling but beautiful tale.

J.J. Dare's False World offers a vision of a world where nothing in history is quite what it seemed. Brave Joe lost his wife in the first book, False Positive. But it's easy to pick up the story here without reading what came before, and it would be far too simple to suggest the earlier book explains everything. As lives, nations and politics fall apart, one man holds a secret, seeks answers, and uses his military and intelligence skills, and a shrinking network of friends, to get closer to what he thinks he wants. Fast action, slow explanation, and an interesting future history; it doesn't quite convince me but it's fun (in a scary way). Enjoy with a bold dark intense cup of 5-star coffee.

My Lady of the Bog, by Peter Hayes, starts in a well-drawn real world too, as an American anthropologist in England finds himself drawn into the investigation of a curiously beautiful and well-preserved body discovered on the fens. And ancient book might hold the secret to the body's history, but Xander finds much more than he's looking for, and reading more right carry a serious risk of losing himself. Enjoy this oddly dark and twisted tale with another 5-star bold dark coffee.

Of course, in mysteries, answers are never as easy to find as they seem. Second Wind Publishing's multi-authored Rubicon Ranch is no exception. With a wealth of characters and suspects, great voices, and multiple secrets to hide, it's a classic Agatha Christie style who-dun-it, best enjoyed with a lively, easy-drinking 2-star coffee.

500 Miles to Go, by J. Conrad Guest, is very convincing real-world novel, telling the story of a racing car driver from first fixing cars with his dad, to winning the Indie 500, to nursing a glass half empty that half the world would envy. There's more to his success, and his misery, than meets the eye, but an intrepid reporter persuades him to tell his tale, and what a thoroughly evocative tale it is. If you've ever enjoyed the sound of those cars on the track, grab a 4-star elegant complex coffee and read this.

And finally, back to mystery again, in a cold real world blending solid police work, great characters, and just a hint of myth, The Cold Dish, by Craig Johnson is the start of a series my husband and I will both be enjoying in years to come. An aging sheriff looks toward retirement, aided and abetted by a wonderful Native American friend with the world's best dry sense of humor. Add big-city understudy, beautiful scenery, unpunished crime, small-town and reservation politics, plus murder, and the story's interesting, endlessly entertaining, thoroughly intriguing, and really good fun.

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