Friday Book Whimsy: Book Challenge, Part II

Today’s post will continue the Book Challenge I found recently on Pinterest. Read last Friday’s post for Part I.

A book that made you laugh: I often find author Bill Bryson to be smug and mean-spirited. But he’s often enormously funny. A Walk in the Woods is a book that caused me not only guffaws, but often laughing until I had tears rolling down my cheeks. It’s a book that makes me forgive him for his smugness.

A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving: I purchased the Kindle version of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple when it was first released without knowing much about the book. When I took a look and saw the format, I was immediately uninterested in reading it. The book is mostly a series of text messages, memos, school documents and so forth. There is very little narrative. So it sat in my library for months before I dove in. I loved the book, as I indicated in my review.

The first novel you remember reading: What else? Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. Oh, I read Nancy Drew and other kids’ mystery books, but Little Women was my first real novel. I loved it the first time I read it, and the many times I’ve read it since. And I always cry when Beth dies. Oh, spoiler alert.

A book that you wish more people would read: I have no way of knowing how many people read any given book, but I have a general sense that author Julia Keller is hugely underappreciated for her dark and richly textured Bell Elkins series. The stories take place in West Virginia and feature a county-prosecutor-turned-private-detective in partnership with the former sheriff and former deputy. The novels are not cheerful, but the characters are interesting and likeable, and Keller’s descriptions and stories ring true.

Favorite title of a book: I’m a sucker for a good title. I’ve also been known to pick a book from its cover. One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow has both. The book, written by Olivia Hawker, will be one of my favorites of 2020. Read my review here.

A book you love but hate at the same time: There has only been one time that I can recall that upon reading the ending, I literally threw the book across the room. Thank heavens I wasn’t yet reading on Kindle, because I’m not sure I would have been able to resist the impulse even then. That book is Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. The story was so compelling that I couldn’t put the book down. But that ending. Oh. My. Goodness. And that’s all I’ll say in case you’re one of the 10 people in the world who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie.

That’s all for this week. To be continued.

By the way, I would love to get your answers to these same questions. Last week’s too.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Cold Way Home

The Cold Way Home is author Julia Keller’s 8th book in the Bell Elkins mystery series. Keller’s wonderful novels appear to be a well-kept secret. And it’s a secret that should be let out to the masses, or at least the masses who like mystery drama, because Keller is a wonderful writer.

The books are somewhat dark, if realistic. They take place in the small town of Ackers Gap in the mountains of West Virginia. The troubles we hear about regularly on the evening news have been taking their toll on this community. Opioid and heroin addiction is claiming many of the young people who still live in this almost-ghost-town. The coal mines have shut down, and there are few jobs left for the people of the town. I have followed Bell from the beginning, when she was the district attorney. As the novels went on, more and more secrets from her past were revealed. Now she is no longer the district attorney, but has started an investigative business with her friend and former sheriff Nick Fogelsong, and a former deputy assistant who is now a paraplegic from a drug-related shooting.

Their first case is a doozy. A woman is found dead at a long-abandoned mental hospital located out in the middle of nowhere. The mental hospital was rumored to have used experimental (and horrific) medical practices during its time of operation. The woman was killed with a hatchet and no one knows why she was killed, or even why she was at that particular spot.  I will admit that the murderer’s identify was about as unexpected to this reader as in any mystery novels I’ve read. I literally gasped out loud when I learned the truth.

Keller’s writing is exceptional. Her descriptions are so clear and eloquent that you can hear the trees as they blow and feel the cold in the air. The story is told from all three of the private investigators, and the three couldn’t be more unique. The author weaves their personal stories into the novel, making us feel almost like they are our friends too.

I love this mystery series, and have recommended it to many. The Cold Way Home is no exception.

Here is a link to the book.