On My Bookshelf, Summer 2017

So I read some books. Not too many, but I have been reading just a bit over the last couple of months. Here are short reviews for two that stand out in my mind.

The Good Byline: A Riley Ellison Mystery by Jill Orr (2017)

I don’t usually pick up a mystery – it just isn’t my genre – but the back cover of this one sparked my interest in some LibraryThing Early Reviewers offerings. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Although I can’t say I will necessarily pick up the next one. To be honest – I thought a bit of the story was both obvious and over-the-top, but it still kept my interest. The heroine was delightful and – in my opinion – fairly original.

From Amazon.com: “Meet Riley Ellison, a smart, quirky, young library assistant who’s become known in her hometown of Tuttle Corner, Virginia, as Riley Bless-Her-Heart. Ever since her beloved granddaddy died and her longtime boyfriend broke up with her, Riley has been withdrawing from life. In an effort to rejoin the living, she signs up for an online dating service and tries to reconnect with her childhood best friend, Jordan James, a reporter at the Tuttle Times. But when she learns that Jordan committed suicide, Riley is shaken to the core. Riley agrees to write Jordan’s obituary as a way to learn more about why a young woman with so much to live for would suddenly opt out. Jordan’s co-worker, a paranoid reporter with a penchant for conspiracy theories, convinces Riley that Jordan’s death was no suicide. He leads her down a dangerous path toward organized crime, secret lovers, and suspicious taco trucks.”

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (2017)

Very good. I love these kind of books that dissect a local issue that actually relates to societal changes. My only complaint is that I felt it was a bit disjointed. Hesse does that thing that is so common in narrative nonfiction books – jumping around to different viewpoints or characters from chapter to chapter. It usually works fine, but here the story seemed to be jumping around a bit too much. At one point we’d be on fire #50 and then we’d jump back to #5. It didn’t make me put the book down, but did take away from the overall story.

From Amazon.com: “The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. Vigilante groups sprang up, patrolling the rural Virginia coast with cameras and camouflage. Volunteer firefighters slept at their stations. The arsonist seemed to target abandoned buildings, but local police were stretched too thin to surveil them all. Accomack was desolate―there were hundreds of abandoned buildings. And by the dozen they were burning. The culprit, and the path that led to these crimes, is a story of twenty-first century America.”


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