WHITE FRAGILITY by Robin J. DiAngelo

September 23, 2020

WHITE FRAGILITY by Robin J. DiAngelo. Beacon Press; Reprint Edition (June 26, 2018). ISBN 978-0807047415. 192 pages.

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THE ABSTAINER by Ian McGuire

September 22, 2020

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Roland Ford Series, Book 4

From the publisher:

An Irishman in nineteenth-century England is forced to take sides when his nephew joins the bloody underground movement for independence in this propulsive novel from the acclaimed author of The North Water.

Manchester, England, 1867. The rebels will be hanged at dawn, and their brotherhood is already plotting its revenge.

Stephen Doyle, an Irish-American veteran of the Civil War, arrives in Manchester from New York with a thirst for blood. He has joined the Fenians, a secret society intent on ending British rule in Ireland by any means necessary. Head Constable James O’Connor has fled grief and drink in Dublin for a sober start in Manchester. His job is to discover and thwart the Fenians’ plans whatever they might be. When a long-lost nephew arrives on O’Connor’s doorstep looking for work, he cannot foresee the way his fragile new life will be imperiled—and how his and Doyle’s fates will become fatally intertwined.

In this propulsive tale of the underground war for Irish independence, the author of The North Water once again transports readers to a time when blood begot blood. Moving from the dirt and uproar of industrial Manchester to the quiet hills of rural Pennsylvania, The Abstainer is a searing novel in which two men, haunted by their pasts and driven forward by the need for justice and retribution, must fight for life and legacy.


Ian McGuire brings us into the mid 19th century in a very well-done novel set during a period just after Ireland had suffered through a potato famine with consequences of depressed economic conditions. Land was mainly owned by transplanted British nobility and the Irish were focused on winning their liberty and their land back from England. A secret society termed “Fenians” waged underground war against England and their military and police based in Ireland to enforce British rule. Most of the population lived in abject poverty with roots in the potato famine. The story opens with the hanging of three Irish rebels for the crime of killing a police officer. The Irish underground is already planning a campaign of retaliation against British authority with the author introducing persona from both sides of the conflict and allowing their views to be aired as a necessary adjunct to the story.

Stephen Doyle, an Irish American who had lived in the U.S and had served with the Union army during the American civil war, returns to his native country filled with rage and anxious to shed blood. He moves into the city of Manchester and quickly joins the Fenians with the idea to cause havoc among the British. At the same time, head constable James O’Connor enters the scene. He had worked in Dublin but had become an alcoholic to escape the trauma of his young wife dying. He is sent to Manchester as a last chance to redeem himself and is determined to do so. When a long-lost nephew shows up at his house looking for work it creates a conflict that will put O’Connor and Doyle against each other in a situation that only killing will solve.

The novel is definitely enhanced by the author’s knowledge of and descriptions of the economic and political conditions in both Ireland and the United States in a period after the Civil War. The reason that O’Connor and Doyle became deadly enemies is logically tied into the conditions both men faced in their lives and in the areas they lived in during the action. Definitely, a novel that will capture its readers causing a good deal of loss of sleep and the obvious desire to pick up McGuire’s next novel.

9/2020 Paul Lane

THE ABSTAINER by Ian McGuire.  Random House (September 15, 2020). ISBN: 978-0593133873. 320 pages.

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REMEMBER ME by Mario Escobar

September 12, 2020

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From the publisher:

Amid the shadows of war, one family faces an impossible choice that will change their lives forever.

Madrid, 1934. Though the Spanish Civil War has not yet begun, the streets of Madrid have become dangerous for thirteen-year-old Marco Alcalde and his younger sisters, Isabel and Ana. When Marco’s parents align themselves against General Franco and his fascist regime, they have no inkling that their ideals will endanger them and everyone they love—nor do they predict the violence that is to come.

When the Mexican government promises protection to the imperiled children of Spain, the Alcaldes do what they believe is best: send their children, unaccompanied, across the ocean to the city of Morelia—a place they’ve never seen or imagined. Marco promises to look after his sisters in Mexico until their family can be reunited in Spain, but what ensues is a harrowing journey and a series of heartbreaking events. As the growing children work to care for themselves and each other, they feel their sense of home, family, and identity slipping further and further away. And as their memories of Spain fade and the news from abroad grows more grim, they begin to wonder if they will ever see their parents again or the glittering streets of the home they once loved.

Based upon the true stories of the Children of Morelia, Mario Escobar’s Remember Me—now available for the first time in Englishexplores the agony of war and paints a poignant portrait of one family’s sacrificial love and endurance.

The publisher provided additional historical information – scroll down for the info and some pictures.


Mario Escobar lives in Spain and writes in Spanish. This book was translated by a professional translator and it was the novel in English that I read. It was still one of the most hard-hitting books I have enjoyed. I emerged from a continuous read emotionally spent and attempting to see how more than five stars could be given to what I had just finished.

The novel begins with a family of five living in Madrid in 1936; one that is closely knit and happy with their lives even though they are not wealthy. Life than changes abruptly for them when a civil war breaks out in Spain. The first phase began with a military revolt in Morocco triggered by events in Madrid. In a short time, Spain became an armed camp with Loyalists on one side and Nationalists on the other. The Nationalists soon became followers of General Francisco Franco who is described as a mass murderer. The author describes the situation as the two sides square off against each other. Atrocities occurred committed by both armies and Escobar describes a scenario when mass murders are the norm.

Marco Alcalde and his sisters Isabel and Ana are the three children of the family living in Madrid. Their father takes an active role on the side of the Loyalists taking part in several pitched battles. Based on their parent’s views of the blood bath they live in with the definite possibility that all will be killed if the Nationalists take Madrid it is decided to send the children to Mexico. The Mexican president has taken an interest in helping children caught up in the war to come to Mexico for refuge.

Marco and his sisters are smuggled out of Spain by their mother, taken by ship to Veracruz, Mexico and from that port sent on to Morelia a city on the western side of the country. A school and living facilities have been prepared for them paid for by the Mexican president. Unfortunately, the heads of the school have taken the opportunity of administering it to steal as much as possible from the budget leaving only a subsistence amount to pay bills such as feeding and properly clothing the residents.

Mexico during the course of the civil war allows many Spaniards to emigrate and settle in their country. The author, though, has written the novel to fully go over the plight of the children and the forming of a group that became known as the Children of Morelia.

Marco and his sisters decide to try and return to Spain after several years in Mexico. They, of course, want to reunite with their parents and return to their previous lifestyle. The ending of the novel is a description of their search and the horrors they are forced to endure in both Mexico and Spain,

The author’s style is blasé, but in a manner that helps the reader to get into the atmosphere of a novel that features scenes of combat, horror, and the inhumanity of ordinary people caught up in wholesale killing. A very well-done story about ordinary people and what they turn into in the face of war.

Also from the publisher:

Historical Background on the Children of Morelia and the Spanish Civil War

In the great wars of the 20th century, an entire generation of Europeans sought refuge in the Americas. They were displaced first by the Spanish Civil War, which was the first modern war of the 20th century, then by the terrible World War II. Just over a quarter of a million people died directly in the conflict, including a large number of children. Some 456 sought refuge in Morelia, invited by Mexican President Cárdenas.

We live in a moment of history with more and more people displaced from their homes. After the Spanish Civil War, just over 440,000 people escaped from the fascist repression. A large part took refuge in the Americas. Especially in Mexico, Cuba, and Argentina. Currently, an estimated 65 million people have had to leave their homes and find a new place to live.

Remember Me narrates the consequences of the Civil War and the relationship of the Spanish Republic with Mexico, from the first days of the conflict, the exile in France and Mexico of many refugees, the Francoist repression and the mistreatment of children after the war.

In a world like the current one, in which more and more barriers and walls are being erected, Remember Me tells us about the struggle of refugees to survive and the harshness of life in a new country, but it is also a song of hope and solidarity.

The Children of Morelia seek refuge

Some 456 minors, between five and twelve years old, were sent from Spain to Mexico to try to escape the terrible ravages of the Spanish Civil War. The children traveled in very harsh conditions during a long journey to Veracruz in the summer of 1937.

9/2020 Paul Lane

REMEMBER ME by Mario Escobar. Thomas Nelson (September 15, 2020). ISBN: 978-0785236580. 384 pages.

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KISS MY CUPCAKE by Helena Hunting

September 11, 2020

KISS MY CUPCAKE by Helena Hunting. Forever; Illustrated Edition (August 11, 2020). ISBN 978-1538734674. 368 pages.

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Cover Reveal! THE NEWCOMER by Mary Kay Andrews

September 10, 2020

CLICK COVER TO PRE-ORDER!

New from the New York Times bestselling author and Queen of the Beach Reads, Mary Kay Andrews

The New York Times bestselling author and Queen of the Beach Reads delivers her next page-turner for the summer.

Letty Carnahan is in trouble. She’s on the run from New York City; she has her four-year-old niece, Maya in tow, and her sister was found dead in the entry hall of her glamorous townhome. Letty believes she knows who did it: her sister’s awful, money-grubbing ex-husband, Eli Wingfield.

Letty can’t forget her sister Tara’s insistence: “if anything bad ever happens to me–It’s Eli. Promise me you’ll take Maya and run. Promise me.”

But run where? The only clue Tara has left behind is a faded magazine story about a sleepy mom-and-pop motel on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Certain that the police and Tara’s ex are hot on her trail, Letty leaves her own life behind without a backwards glance, knowing she will somehow get justice for Tara, and sets out for her destination–The Murmuring Surf.

The Surf, as regulars call it, is the winter home of a close-knit but quarrelsome group of retirees and snowbirds who regard this newcomer and her adorable niece with suspicion and more than a little curiosity. There’s a No Vacancy sign swinging from the neon motel marquee, but the motel’s longtime owner Ava DeCurtis takes Letty in, offers her a room and eventually a job, much to the disapproval of Ava’s cynical son Joe, a local police detective whose every instinct tells him that Letty is a dangerous fugitive, possibly even a kidnapper and murderer.

As Letty tries to settle into her new life and help heal Maya’s trauma, she’s preoccupied as her late sister’s troubled past and connection to the motel are revealed, all while trying to deal with the attractive detective’s unwelcome advances. Is Joe a would-be suitor? Or a cop determined to betray her confidence and put her behind bars?

Pre-order: https://amzn.to/32gdNK7

 


ONE BY ONE by Ruth Ware

September 9, 2020

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From the publisher:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Turn of the Key and In a Dark Dark Wood returns with another suspenseful thriller set on a snow-covered mountain.

Getting snowed in at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world. Especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a full-service chef and housekeeper, a cozy fire to keep you warm, and others to keep you company. Unless that company happens to be eight coworkers…each with something to gain, something to lose, and something to hide.

When the cofounder of Snoop, a trendy London-based tech startup, organizes a weeklong trip for the team in the French Alps, it starts out as a corporate retreat like any other: PowerPoint presentations and strategy sessions broken up by mandatory bonding on the slopes. But as soon as one shareholder upends the agenda by pushing a lucrative but contentious buyout offer, tensions simmer and loyalties are tested. The storm brewing inside the chalet is no match for the one outside, however, and a devastating avalanche leaves the group cut off from all access to the outside world. Even worse, one Snooper hadn’t made it back from the slopes when the avalanche hit.

As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic mounts, the chalet grows colder, and the group dwindles further…one by one.


Ruth Ware continues her writing of solidly written, entertaining, and well-plotted novels with a murder mystery set in a ski resort that has been snowbound due to a major storm. Erin and Danny work for a company that leases rooms at these resorts to people interested in spending a few days both on the ski slopes as well as having the luxury of a well-run hotel at their disposal. Danny is the chef and the person preparing the meals for the guests with Erin acting both as the hostess and the maid for them. We learn early on that Erin has a background that includes a major personal crisis.

As the story opens, a group from a tech company named “Snoop” which has successfully developed a product that can follow anybody electronically without their knowledge and allow them to be spied upon, has booked the resort for a few days. They are in the process of possibly receiving a buy out by another company which will mean fortunes for the current stockholders: all of whom are at the meeting. There are two of the guests that are opposed to the buy out feeling that once their product is released to the public the stock they own will be worth more than any purchase by another company.

Since the group is at a ski resort it is decided that they will go out and do a downhill run on their first day there. There are a few good skiers among them coupled with others with lesser skills. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes immediately. One of the groups with lesser ability does not return to the resort with the others. Using their own product the determination is made that that woman’s phone is buried under tons of snow and that she must have been killed. The police are called but cannot come immediately due to the imminent arrival of a major snowstorm. That storm hits and causes the resort to become isolated with no possibility of either leaving or having anyone come to them.

In the vein of Agatha Christie’s classic “And Then There Were None,” people begin dying bringing terror to the group afraid of being next on whatever list is being used to decide who is to be killed. The story is told via a series of first-person narratives and we clearly follow the plot until a good who done it reaches its inevitable end. The use of a ski resort being snowed in provides an interesting twist to Ware’s tale of murder and is another landmark on her reputation as a skilled author.

9/2020 Paul Lane

ONE BY ONE by Ruth Ware. Gallery/Scout Press (September 8, 2020). ISBN: 978-1501188817. 384 pages.

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CALL OF THE RAVEN by Wilbur Smith

September 8, 2020

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From the publisher:

‘The right of the cat over the mouse, of the strong over the weak. The natural law of existence.’ Augustus Mungo St John, A Falcon Flies

The son of a wealthy plantation owner and a doting mother, Augustus Mungo St John is accustomed to the wealth and luxuries his privilege has afforded him. That is until he returns from university to discover his family ruined, his inheritance stolen and his childhood sweetheart, Camilla, taken by the conniving Chester Marion. Fuelled by anger, and love, Mungo swears vengeance and devotes his life to saving Camilla – and destroying Chester.

Camilla, trapped in New Orleans and powerless to her position as a kept slave and Chester’s brutish behaviour, must learn to do whatever it takes to survive.

As Mungo battles his own fate and misfortune to achieve the revenge that drives him, and regain his power in the world, he must question what it takes for a man to survive when he has nothing, and what he is willing to do in order to get what he wants.

An action-packed and gripping adventure by bestselling author, Wilbur Smith, about one man’s quest for revenge, the brutality of slavery in America and the imbalance between humans that can drive – or defeat – us.


The author is a very well established South African born writer of tales of high adventure featuring leading protagonists of mighty heroes and dastardly villains. Each of these is portrayed as larger than life, in love with gorgeous women. The heroes usually get the girl and the villains their just desserts and we see great deeds done in righting all wrongs.

The current book utilizes a different slant on things. Mungo St. John is the son of wealthy plantation owners in the American south of the 1840s. Slavery has been used as sources of cheap labor since time immemorial and Mungo reaps the rewards of cheap labor when he goes off to attend university in England.

Called back from his studies, he returns home and finds that his parents have been killed and their plantation seized by the very evil Chester Marion. And to put a capstone on the evil done him, his childhood and adult love Camilla, who was actually a slave, has been taken by the brute. Mungo declares that he will find a way to destroy Chester Marion, take back what is his and kill the brute that has wronged him.

He gets work on a ship that is involved in the transport of slaves from Africa to Havana where they will be sent to buyers in the U.S. In most of Smith’s books Mungo would not get involved with the hideous crime of buying and selling human beings but in this novel he does in order to make the money needed to destroy Chester Martin.

In my opinion, Smith’s use of flawed characters makes “Call of the Raven” stand out as one of his top novels, and that is among the many excellent works that he has already had published. An excellent and exciting read and obviously one that will cause Wilbur Smith’s fan club to continue to grow.

9/2020 Paul Lane

CALL OF THE RAVEN by Wilbur Smith. Zaffre (September 8, 2020). ISBN: 978-1499862294. 448p.

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THREE SINGLE WIVES by Gina LaManna

September 3, 2020

9/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THREE SINGLE WIVES by Gina LaManna. Henry Holt and Co. (July 28, 2020). ISBN 978-1250266491. 352p.

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No contest this month

September 1, 2020

Normally, I run a monthly contest offering several autographed thrillers for one lucky winner.

The International Thriller Writers organization has served a very important purpose and worked hard to help its members in a myriad of ways, including sponsoring this contest for almost 15 years. As an avid thriller reader, I have been a strong supporter of the ITW almost since its inception. I am proud of all the authors I have championed. It has been a privilege to work with this amazing group of writers and introduce them to thousands of readers.

Over the past few weeks, some things surfaced that have caused significant changes in the organization. It is my understanding that the ITW is working hard to resolve these issues and regain the support of its members. Unfortunately, until there is more clarification, I am temporarily suspending this contest. I am confident that a positive outcome is on the horizon.

I will update as soon as more information is available. Thanks for your patience.


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: August 28, 2020

August 27, 2020

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it’s back to work I go!

I am happy to report so far, so good. I am not back full time on campus, just three mornings a week. The rest of the time, I will continue to work remotely from home.

I must admit it felt very strange being back. It is also stressful. I haven’t left my home very often, so just driving, just being outside is sort of scary, but also sort of wonderful. I have always been a people person, and I’ve missed seeing other people for sure. But it is so hard not to hug my co-workers who I haven’t seen in person in six months!

I pretty much stay in my office most of my time there, but I do come out to help students or staff with whatever they need. The university installed big plexiglass shields at the desk. There were two of them, with about 8 inches between them. Don’t you know that everyone was sticking their face through the opening? We moved them, so they are much closer together now.

I have had students casually stroll into my office, or rather attempt to. I stop them before they get one foot through the doorway. My office is not large, and I guesstimate that it is about 6 feet or so from my desk to the door, so that is close enough.

I haven’t seen anyone not wearing a mask, thank goodness. Today I helped a student who was wearing a loosely fitted bandana. It was so loose she had to hold it in place. I wasn’t sure how much policing I am supposed to be doing, but my boss pointed out that she may not have known better. The university states implicitly that masks must be worn and further states no bandanas or gaiters are allowed. We do have disposable masks, so if I see her again, I will let her know the rules and offer her a mask.

I have missed the library so much! I missed my office and my two giant monitors – at home, I work on a small laptop. I open the library, so I get to come in during the morning quiet. I turn on all the lights, unlock the doors, and get ready to help whoever comes through. The first week was mostly directional help. There are classroom and/or building abbreviations that completely baffle students, with good reason! We have a handout with an explanation of all the abbreviations, which students really appreciate.

In early 2019, during the middle of our academic year, the American Psychological Association, APA, put out a new book with lots of changes in how papers are to be formatted. Most of the classes at the university use APA and it is the area librarians help with the most. Now that there is a new edition, all the students who were finally getting used to the 6th edition have to pivot to the 7th. We waited for the new school year to get started and now the fun begins! There is definitely going to be a learning curve, for me and the students.

 

Meanwhile, I really have to give Lynn University props for tackling the pandemic the way they have. They have bent over backward to make the campus as safe as possible. They installed HEPA air filtration systems. In addition to the excellent custodial staff, they contracted with a company to come through and disinfect the building multiple times a day. They changed the semester from 16 weeks to 4, 4-week block classes instead. And any class with more than 12 students is divided in half, with half going to class two days a week, and learning remotely the other two days, and vice versa. Most students take one or at most 2 classes per block, so that really limits the number of people they are coming in contact with.

They also contracted with CVS to set up a rapid testing site on campus. It may not be the most accurate test, but at least it is available quickly. We also have to do an online assessment every morning before coming to campus. Visitors pretty much have to jump through rings of fire to get on campus so we are not seeing anyone that doesn’t belong there.

Every department determined how best to utilize their staff on campus. A friend who works in one area of admissions is on campus one day a week. In the library, every librarian got to express their preferences and were scheduled as close to that as possible. We have a couple of librarians with young children who are starting school remotely, another with immune issues, a couple that are in the age bracket danger zone, and so forth. The end result is that there are only one or two librarians on campus at any time.

My chief responsibility is to hire and supervise student workers and run the circulation department. I had many students graduate in the spring, a few others who went home and are continuing class online, and so forth. So I had to hire a lot of new students, about 15 or so. That has been a process as we recently switched to new software that is not going as smoothly as one would have hoped. But we have an amazing IT department, and I know they will work it all out quickly. I have been training all my student workers on Zoom, another first for me, and that has not been without its hiccups. But I hired smart, engaging students and I have every confidence that they are going to be an asset to the library and the university.

I did a Zoom party last week so my new students could “meet” each other and some of the librarians. One of them told us while they hadn’t heard about any parties in the dorms, there had been parties, densely packed parties, off-campus with no masks. The university is being very tough about this and sent a “scary email,” as one of my students called it, to all the students on campus warning them off of partying and not wearing a mask.

All that said, as colleges around the country are starting back up, the news has been less than reassuring.

University Of Alabama Reports More Than 560 New COVID-19 Cases In 1st Week

University of Miami reports 141 tested positive for coronavirus

My college reopened. Now I’ve got COVID-19, along with nearly 500 other students. (University of Notre Dame)

Stop Campus Partying to Slow the Virus? Colleges Try but Often Fail

Tracking Coronavirus Cases at U.S. Colleges and Universities – 26,000+ Cases; 750+ Colleges

I am the first one to admit that were my 17-year-old self starting college today, I would be partying with the best of them. That age group thinks they are smarter than everyone else, especially their parents and teachers, and that they are untouchable, even immortal. “The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so (University of Rochester Medical Center.)

I’m trying not to worry too much. My immediate concern is that I have gained the “Covid 19” and need to work on losing it! My husband has been really trying to get his blood sugar under control so to help him, I’ve cut back on the baking and the carbs, which is also good for me. I will not eat at work so I’m back to doing a modified fast at least three days a week! Let’s see if it works.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!