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Spotlight: Calvin and Hobbes

calvinhobbesWhy do we care so much about an egotistical, obnoxious, bratty kid, and his stuffed cat?  I know that I—along with billions of other fans— love Calvin and Hobbes, but I have to ask myself why.  Calvin is certainly not admirable in any way, other than maybe the expert use of his imagination, and his undying devotion to his tiger.  Mostly he can be counted on to be more intent on mischief than on doing good, taking an almost disturbing sense of pride in this. And when he isn’t “up to no good,” he can be found doing something totally unproductive, like watching bad television.

And yet we do love Calvin and Hobbes, because they’re undeniably charming and childlike, with that sense of abandon that we wish we still had. Plus, Hobbes is the voice of reason, after all—a good foil to Calvin’s enthusiastic hedonism and reckless sense of adventure. Though, most of the time, we have to admit Hobbes doesn’t put up much of a fight…

Check out Bill Watterson’s work.

Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman (2017)

gonetodust2Private detective Nils Shapiro is hired to assist the Edina Police Department with a murder investigation. Maggie Somerville has been found dead in her home with bags of vacuum cleaner dust surrounding her, which has ruined the chance of getting any decent evidence from the crime scene. Nils delves into Maggie's personal life--including her ex-husband, boyfriend, and a secret from her past that possibly has a connection to the crime. With a very likable main character that the reader enjoys following as he pursues the case, this is a promising new mystery series from Matt Goldman. I’d suggest Gone to Dust to readers who like Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch books.

Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen (2016)

adulthoodmythThis was my first go at a graphic novel, so I was pleased to find that this book is a collection of short graphic anecdotes. It was easy to read a few pages here and there in between other activities. Adulthood is a Myth is incredibly relatable, especially if you're a 20-30 something female, but anyone in that age bracket can definitely connect with Sarah Andersen's humorous spin on life. If you do enjoy Adulthood is a Myth, don't miss the additional installments in the Sarah Scribbles series, Big Mushy Happy Lump, which came out in 2017, and Herding Cats, due out in March 2018.

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (2010)

In this intriguing page-turner, Elly Griffiths introduces forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. A professor at the local university, she finds herself called into a murder investigation by the police when a child goes missing and bones are uncovered in the remote marshy area where Ruth lives. During the course of the investigation, Ruth grows closer to Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson.

The edition of The Crossing Places I read previewed the first two chapters of the second book in the series, The Janus Stone. Griffiths managed to hook me into that story too. I’m longing to learn more about forensic archaeology, curious to discover what lies beneath the reclusive Ruth, and of course, anxious to see how the relationship between Ruth and Harry will evolve.

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio (2015)

I. W. Gregorio’s novel chronicles the struggles teens can face growing up intersex through the eyes of character Kristin Lattimer. After homecoming, Kristin has relations with a fellow teen only to discover her worst nightmare: her body isn’t what she thought it was. None of the Above is a story of discovery, bullying, and ultimately acceptance of ourselves and others. It also serves as a reminder to always be kind: you never know what someone else is going through.

A Question of Identity by Susan Hill (2012)

In Yorkshire, a suspect is acquitted of murder following very uncertain testimony by an eyewitness. He is placed under identity protection due to the heated response of the local community, and ten years later Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler of Lafferton is confronted with first one, then a second brutal murder of elderly women under circumstances similar to the Yorkshire case.

In Susan Hill’s A Question of Identity, the reader follows the case development with the police superintendent as well as the views of the suspect and a lonely hermit who wanders and watches. Find previous books in the series on Goodreads, plus check out my recent reviews of The Betrayal of Trust and The Risk of Darkness.

Wagging Through the Snow by Laurien Berenson (2017)

Do you love dogs? Christmas? Murder mysteries? Stop right there! Wagging Through the Snow, the latest installment of Laurien Berenson’s Melanie Travis series, is just what you’ve been looking for. Melanie is hoping for a quiet Christmas this year with her family and six dogs (five of them standard poodles, of course), but her family has other plans when her brother buys some cheap property for his joint business with Melanie’s ex-husband. Reluctantly roped into helping out, Melanie discovers more than she bargained for: a cute little Maltese dog—and his dead owner under a tree.

Find more Christmas mysteries at the library.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016)

Short chapters alternate among three young evacuees in East Prussia during the winter of 1945. A fourth voice also fits into the storyline. Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred are aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff when it is hit by a Russian torpedo and quickly sinks. The story leads up to this moment when life-changing decisions are made. We get to know, love, and understand the differing life circumstances that have brought these characters together from all over Eastern Europe at a crucial time in the war.

Ruta Sepetys has a talent for drawing tears from her readers and little known stories from history. Between Shades of Gray exposed the tragic story of the Lithuanian prisoners in Siberia with the same drama and sensitivity that she tells this story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. The epilogue in Salt to the Sea adds another poignant note to this moment in historical fiction.

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg (2017)

I loved this charming and uplifting tale of an elderly widower, a troubled teen, and an aging spinster who are given the gift of second chances. Elizabeth Berg’s beautiful writing and heartwarming characters made The Story of Arthur Truluv a great read. I was sad to see it end!

Novelist recommends this book for fans of A Man Called Ove, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry.
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Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (2016)

Famous (and fictional) mystery writer Alan Conway’s last novel begins with a burial while seven magpies perched in a tree look on. One for sorrow, one for Joy, one for a girl and one for a boy, one for silver and one for gold, and the last for the strangest tale that ever was told. This mystery within a mystery follows this children’s poem but the reader is challenged to find parallel events in the lives of the author, editor, and publisher to those affecting characters in the author’s last novel. Were the last chapters of the novel stolen, destroyed, or never written? Who can untangle these mysteries? Discover the answer to these questions in Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (2013)

In William Kent Krueger’s novel, narrator Frank remembers the summer of 1961 when his perspective on life changed forever. A smart aleck thirteen year old, Frank thought he knew it all. He and his younger brother Jake are faced with multiple killings in their small Minnesota town and figure out the awful truth behind the hardest death of all.

Part mystery, part poignant family drama, Ordinary Grace shows how bad things happen to good people and what you see is not always the whole story. It took the innocence of childhood to see beyond the surface. A tender epilogue set forty years later ties up loose ends and shows how the summer of 1961 truly shaped the lives of the Drum family.

The Brass Verdict (2008) and The Wrong Side of Goodbye (2016) by Michael Connelly

Author Michael Connelly is often at his best when he brings his two principle characters together. In The Brass Verdict, attorney Mickey Haller and detective Harry Bosch meet for the first time when Haller takes over the lucrative docket of a murdered lawyer and Bosch investigates the crime. At first, they don’t recognize each other, but there are suggestions of family connections. Bosch sets up a scam attack on Haller in an effort to gain information, but Haller figures it out and the two decide to work together and find the real culprit.

 
In The Wrong Side of Goodbye, these half-brothers fully cooperate when private eye Bosch is engaged by an aging billionaire to find an heir. Bosch retains Haller as his attorney when the billionaire dies and Bosch becomes entangled in more legal issues than he can manage. Check out a New York Times review. In these novels, the reader is treated to both investigative and legal strategies as the adventures unfold.

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton (2011)

Private eye Kinsey Millhone accidentally uncovers a shoplifting ring with roots in organized crime as she goes on a rare shopping spree. In V is for Vengeance, author Sue Grafton presents points of view from multiple characters, allowing seemingly unrelated stories to converge and play into the crime Kinsey is obsessed with solving. The mystery and a struggle for her life almost keep her from remembering her long dreaded 38th birthday. Her gentle and wise octogenarian landlord/neighbor and his quirky brother add levity to the story and to Kinsey's perilous lifestyle.

Did you know? A new Kinsey Millhone book was released recently. Check out Y is for Yesterday today. And if you enjoy Sue Grafton’s alphabet books, browse our list of other popular mystery and suspense series.

The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill (2011)

As with all of Susan Hill’s mysteries, Chief Detective Simon Serrailer’s investigation is only one part of the story. In The Betrayal of Trust, we see the detective’s emerging love interest and his sister Doctor Cat in her work at the local hospice for those near death along with a sad tale dealing with assisted suicide. The investigation is of a cold case coming to the surface when two skeletons of young girls are found after a flood. Simon uses much skill and discretion in laying this sadness to rest.

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty (2016)

Liane Moriarty weaves an intricate story around three families and a barbecue they attended. The reader is kept guessing about a significant event that occurs at the party, as chapters alternate between the day of the barbecue and the present, several weeks afterward. Bit by bit, the story unravels from multiple perspectives. In the process, many layers of family history and psychological characteristics are revealed in Truly, Madly, Guilty. The barbecue seemed to bring out secrets hidden beneath the surface. Life will never be the same for these characters living in the suburbs of Sydney.