On My Bedside Table

From time to time, I like to share what books and/or magazines I have on my bedside table. As most of my friends know, I do have very eclectic tastes—and it usually depends on my mood. Am I looking for an exciting blood and guts thriller or a gentle cosy or a hot romance or an exhilarating sci-fi? How about a good ol’ western or the intrigues of a historical drama? At some point or other, I have had all of these and more—AND yes, I have slept like a babe after reading them.

I have always been a fan of Robert B. Parker and mourned when he suddenly passed away in 2010. But the Robert B. Parker Estate had other ideas and passed the continuity and creativity of his private investigator, Spenser, to Ace Atkins, a famous writer himself. To be able to take over someone else’s character is not as easy as it sounds. The writer has to make Spenser sound the same with that distinctive speech pattern and off-beat humour, his comfort style, his beautiful Susan, his loyal friend and “weapon”, Hawke, as well as all the other characters he calls upon for information or support.  Ace Atkins has succeeded. I would know as Atkins has written 6 Spenser books and I have read all of them.  Ace Atkins is Robert B. Parker. I thoroughly enjoyed “Old Black Magic,” by Ace Atkins as it had all the ingredients that loyal readers like.  Best of all, “Old Black Magic” is Spenser, older but as tenacious and likeable as always.

James Rollins has never disappointed. His previous book, “Kill Switch,” co-authored with Grant Blackwood, introduced the close working and non-working relationship between Captain Tucker Wayne and his Belgian Malinois army dogs, Kane and Abel. In this second book, “War Hawk,” Wayne and Kane have retired from the army, trying to settle into a peaceful civilian life and dealing with the loss of Abel. When a former army colleague asks for his help, he and Kane face the newest threat in the 21st century—information.  And the biggest threat will be the utilization of new technology that sifts through all the collected useless information and extracts the mother-lode of useful bits. James Rollins and Grant Blackwood have written another exciting thriller that is believable in the 21st century: wars are changing; control of power is understanding and using the intricacies of technology. The scary enemies will be relentless drones, built for death and destruction.  “War Hawk” was another page turner that was difficult to put down.

I have long been a “Jack Reacher” fan, the solitary modern vagabond created by Lee Child. As all fans know, Reacher is a large 6 feet plus, muscle-bound male who has seen a lot of what humans can do to each other, in his journey criss-crossing the United States. A recent Lee Child book, “No Middle Name,” is a complete collection of Jack Reacher short stories–the earliest written in 1999 titled “James Penney’s New Identity.” The others were written over the years with the newest short story, “Too Much Time,” written in 2017.  Each story finds Reacher at different phases of his life, as a young man, Army career and eventually retired army officer, hitch-hiking his way around the country. Perhaps his years working in the Military Police has honed his observations and sense of justice, but one thing is certain, Reacher can hear the lies before they are uttered.

James Patterson is a prolific writer and in recent years have paired with other writers. “Haunted” is no exception.  Written by Patterson and James O. Born, “Haunted” delves into Michael Bennett’s worst nightmare for any parent. Escaping to the quiet idyllic life in a small town in Maine, he hopes to give his family and himself a holiday. But at the request of a colleague, he finds himself involved in the disappearance of several young teens, the discovery of a number of grave sites and a drug problem that is as devastating in this small Maine town as it is in New York. Wondering where he has failed as a parent, “Haunted” shows that being a cop doesn’t exempt you from having a kid caught with drugs and sent to jail.  The old saying of “do the crime; pay the time” has never proved truer or more painful for the Bennett family.

After reading a number of exciting crime thrillers, I switched to something much lighter. Bailey Cates is one of my go-to authors for fun cosies. And cosies that deals with murder and food are perfect. I had read Bailey Cates “Magic and Macaroons,” before but decided to reread this entertaining story again. Katie Lightfoot, one of the co-owners of Savannah’s “Honeybee Bakery, serves up her delicious baked goods, made with some added magical charms.  When a stranger collapses on the floor of the Honeybee Bakery and mumbles something about a voodoo talisman, what can a fledgling witch do but investigate with the help of her elders, a group of experienced “charms and spells” witches.

I had recently attended a panel discussion at Victoria’s Bolen Books. It was moderated by a Canadian mystery writer, S.(Sandra)G.Wong and her fellow Sisters-in-Crime, Canada West writers, Laurie King, Marcelle Dube, Liz Freeland and Janice MacDonald. It was a very fast-paced and entertaining panel discussion as all the ladies discussed how they managed to research their respective periods and historical backgrounds for their mysteries. I bought one of S.G. Wong’s books, “Die on Your Feet,” as I was not familiar with her books. This book was set in the 1930s, in Crescent City, somewhere near L.A. Lola Starke is a private investigator hired for one job and reluctantly pressed into service for another. Crescent City is also a town with ghosts and Lola has one of her very own, a helpful ghost named Aubrey, whom she doesn’t want.  “Die on Your Feet” launched the first of the Lola Starke mysteries.  I liked the 1930s setting and the book grabbed me from the first page to the last.  It wasn’t the blood and guts reads that I gravitate to prior to bedtime, but “Die on Your Feet,” will keep you entertained.

Ending on a lighter note, a good friend gave me my latest acquisition, a foodie book that is fabulous to dip into—not only for the terrific photography and great recipes, but also for the comments and little stories behind the food. I highly recommend Joanna Gaines “Magnolia Table.” I find this a delicious treasure to add to my collection of recipe books. Recipes such as JoJo’s Biscuits, Syrian Donuts, Dulce de Leche Apple Pie and Bevie’s Chocolate Roll as well as more serious sides and mains like Cream Corn Spoonbread, Almond Chicken Tenderloins, Fried Chicken with Sticky Poppy Seed jam and Grilled Raspberry-Chipotle Pork Tenderloin are all easy to prepare.  I am looking forward to trying many of the dishes and desserts that Joanna Gaines shares. All the recipes in “Magnolia Table” seem to be the Gaines family favourites.

I hope you will enjoy these books too. Happy Reading, Everyone!

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