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Friday, March 26, 2021

'The Crossing Places' The Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries #1 by Elly Griffiths

 


From the BLURB: 

A child's bones are discovered on the windswept Norfolk marshes. Believing them to be ancient, the police call in Dr Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist. But this is no prehistoric grave. A cold missing person case has now become a murder investigation.

Dr Ruth Galloway is called in when a child's bones are discovered near the site of a prehistoric henge on the north Norfolk salt marshes. Are they the remains of a local girl who disappeared ten years earlier - or are the bones much older?

DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for the missing girl. Since she vanished, someone has been sending him bizarre anonymous notes about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible. He knows that Ruth's expertise and experience could help him finally to put this case to rest.

But when a second child goes missing, Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who knows she's getting ever closer to the truth...

***

'The Crossing Places' is the first book in UK author Elly Griffith's 'Ruth Galloway' series, which currently stands at 13 books with a 14th releasing in 2022.

I bought this first book *ages ago* from a secondhand bookstore, because I recognised the 'Ruth Galloway' series as one that fans of ‘Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries’ by Julia Spencer-Fleming recommend as a similar-read. And the main reason I knew it was a similar-read was the establishment of a slow-burn romance between characters, just like in Spencer-Fleming's books ... which is personally something that I find I need in my crime-series in order to hold interest, and alleviate the darker aspects of the story.

So I've had 'The Crossing Places' sitting on my shelf for a while, and I only pulled it down because these last two weeks I've been in a real reading-slump and haven't been able to find anything that holds my interest. So I figured I'd go to my tried-and-trusted genre, crime-fic ... problem solved. Literally and figuratively.

Ruth Galloway of the series title is a 39-year-old forensic archaeologist and college teacher who specialises in bones. One day a DCI Harry Nelson comes to her office at the local university requesting her presence at a possible crime-scene, because they've found some bones ... very specifically they've found bones in the saltmarsh and peet has preserved them in such a way that they can't at first glance tell if they're thousands of years old, or tied to a missing-child investigation Nelson is currently involved in.

'Ruth Galloway' takes place at a fictional Norfolk area surrounded by saltmarsh (think of the Nine Lives Causeway and secluded Eel Marsh House, in the Susan Hill gothic novel 'The Woman in Black' for how this setting is pitched in Griffiths book too. Eerie and full of buried secrets.)

It turns out that the body Nelson has is indeed two-thousand years old and from the Iron Age. A truly extraordinary find for Ruth to document ... but she also becomes intrigued by the case that the imposing Harry Nelson is investigating, linked to a historic disappearance of another little girl 10-years ago.

So the setting for this book is truly brilliant - the saltmarsh and their sinking, glugging, muddy waters with the tide coming and going and buried forests in the ground is truly exciting and extraordinary, even more that Ruth has a house on the outskirts of the marsh and this desolate, beautiful landscape becomes spine-chilling fodder for the crime to unfold.

I loved the twists and turns of this first book, even as a few of the characters and their connections became slightly too-outlandish and convenient for me to fully believe. I did pick the culprit early on, but throughout the book and with the introduction of red-herrings and new suspects I did find myself second-guessing ... and that's not at all a bad way to be reading a new crime writer.

What did surprise me in this book is the Ruth and Harry connection. I was fully prepared for a slow-burn, maybe checking on fan-forums to see which of the 14-books I could expect some movement and action on the romance front ... so I was *shook* to discover that this relationship has a bit more kindling to it. And the many layers of complications it present by the end is pure genius.

But I think the main reason I am excited to launch off into this series now, is Ruth herself. No, I didn't love the many mentions of her being overweight (this is probably the part that read the most 2009 poorly aged for me; it's not even other people commenting on her looks, it's Ruth's internal dialogue about herself on occasions that I just didn't need). Harry for his part, matter-of-factly says that Ruth isn't his type and is indeed overweight, but it's the way she carries herself that has him intrigued. She doesn't need him, or anybody it seems - she's self-sufficient and confident and that absolutely is a lure for him and readers too.

I properly got into this first book and now I can't wait to dive head-first in 12 more!

4/5


Thursday, March 11, 2021

'Love Lettering' by Kate Clayborn



From the BLURB: 

In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts a woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .
 
Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing custom journals for her New York City clientele. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Knowing the upcoming marriage of Reid Sutherland and his polished fiancée was doomed to fail is one thing, but weaving a secret word of warning into their wedding program is another. Meg may have thought no one would spot it, but she hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid.
 
A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other, both try to ignore a deepening connection between them. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .  

'Love Lettering' is a stand-alone contemporary romance novel by Kate Clayborn that came out in 2019.

This is one of those much-buzzed-about romance books that came out around about the same time in the same contemporary category (I'd say books by; Talia Hibbert, Lyssa Kay Adams, Emily Henry and a few others) there seemed to be a real up-swing in these books being read by mainstream readers, not just the romance community, so I *heard* about them but the ability to read as they came out just got away from me ... I've bought lots of those books, but they just sat on my shelves because I have to build up an inclination to read them and really feel like diving into one genre.

But I finally did, and - gotta admit - the first couple of chapters I really struggled. I can't quite put my finger on it, but in the opening chapter we're kind of dropped into this very awkward first meeting between hand-letterer Meg Mackworth and Reid Sutherland, a groom she once met and did hand-lettering for his and his fiancee's invitations, but the wedding never went ahead ... something Meg knew would happen instinctively (they were ill-matched, and it was blindingly obvious to her) to the point that she even wove in a cryptic clue and the word MISTAKE to the lettering type. Well, when we first meet them, Reid is confronting Meg with the hidden word he can now see, and she's trying to deny and deflect.

It's a really weird opening scene, because you're *just* meeting Meg and getting a grip of what she does (which - I don't know how many people know the in's and out's of hand-lettering tbh) and she's being obtuse and vague because she thinks she's in trouble. On top of the fact that it's pretty hard to be reading a book that talks a lot about type-face and hand-lettering but not actually *see* it. Especially this scene where it's a hidden-message within lettering?

This was actually a slight issue I had with the book overall. There's not really enough done, in my opinion, to communicate the hand-lettering aspects. There are a few instances where we'll get a type change in the text but I didn't think it was enough and reading descriptions of certain loops and brush strokes, kerning, etc etc. just left me cold? And, look - not the author's fault I am sure! I am sure Kate Clayborn was all; "I bet my publisher will be able to do something cool with the actual lettering in the text!" but they ... did not. Not really. Even that cover is (I am so sorry to say) God-awful for a book that's all about this really unique hand-letterer working out of Pake Slope who hates the twee commercialisation of her art-form, to an extent - and wants to elevate it. That cover. My GAWDY.

But that's really my main qualm and I recognise it's less with the author and story, and more with the presentation - which is on the publisher. But in a book about hand-lettering, the lack of imaginations in its presentation *did* impact for me. That's just a fact.

But this is a totally solid romance overall and typeface aside - Meg and Reid are incredible. I'd say Reid is on the spectrum, and he's very reserved and unsure initially when clearly he starts having feelings for Meg. Meg is a little scatterbrained by comparison, but that's also because - and we learn this throughout - that she has her own familial hang-ups, a pretty emotionally traumatic childhood, and current fractures with her best friend and roommate. But when Reid and Meg do get together, OH BOY! It is explosive and surprisingly (happily!) explicit and sexy. I was not expecting that, but I appreciated it.

Something else I LOVED in this book was New York. New York, New York is another character in here and especially reading this when I've been deprived of travel, it was a freakin' visceral delight! Reid and Meg end up walking all over Brooklyn and New York and go to little hole-in-the-wall restaurants, ride the subway and hang out in the park and it was like I was there, exploring. That was wonderful.

Overall this was a really solid introduction to Kate Clayborn for me, and I can't wait to read more from her!

4.5/5

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

'I Talk Like a River' written by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith

 


From the BLURB:

I wake up each morning with the sounds of words all around me. 

And I can’t say them all . . . 

When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him. 

Poet Jordan Scott writes movingly in this powerful and ultimately uplifting book, based on his own experience, and masterfully illustrated by Greenaway Medalist Sydney Smith. A book for any child who feels lost, lonely, or unable to fit in.

Absolutely beautiful messaging, wonderfully and artfully told. About a boy who stutters, and what that *feels* like both physically and emotionally.

On “bad speech days” when his classmates laugh and the words won’t come out, his Dad collects him from school and they go to the boy’s favourite place - the river. It’s here that the father makes the connection that he “talks like a river”, the “whirling, bubbling, churning, and crashing,” river . But beyond that is also calm, beyond the rapids where “the water is smooth and glistening.”

It’s not just that Jordan Scott has provided a fabulous simile for young people to think of their speech patterns, but he’s portrayed a caring and patient father gentle with his son and the obstacles he’s got before him. It’s heartwarming and wonderful.

Sydney Smith’s illustrations are watercolour, with delightful bleeds and runs that mimic the water theme - and they’ve captured light on water play magnificently.

At the back of the book is a letter from Scott called “How I Speak” which details his own childhood - and adulthood - having a stutter, being “dysfluent” and how that’s apart of his identity.

This book is very special. I bought it for my nephew who is 3 and stutters, and will be beginning speech therapy shortly - I wanted to gift it to him one day if he needs it, but I think I also hoped for some insight into how I could help him ... and I know Jordan Scott gave me that within these pages.

5/5