A Long Hot Summer

Could it be, as we now have the first taste of what could be a long hot summer, that we see what humanity and society have become?  Each new day brings fresh speculation treated as truth by politicians and spun into sugar castles by the media on a local and national level.

I don’t listen to all of the news, I only gather highlights.  The full depth of the news brings sleepless nights filled with the fevered dreams of anxiety.  I’ve read that “they” hope that we will see a reduction in cases with the coming of summer.  I hold little faith in that gossamer thread of speculation.

Australia has had 88 deaths and New Zealand less than 20.  They are edging toward fall as we are now approaching our warmer summer months.  Here in Utah, we have 45 deaths to date.  Such facts leads this writer to believe that the coming summer will slow the virus as it does for most viral contagions but it will not stop the spread.

My workplace has decided to do our part to weather this storm as best we can.  We have moved to an entirely virtual platform, serving our customers online and by telephone as we all shelter in place, working from home.

My reader, I certainly hope that my musings find you well.  I am confident that the coming months will bring great amounts of changes to how we interact and react with our friends and neighbors.  I will endeavor to reach out to you all frequently to share my hopes and dreams, wishes and truth, and as always my latest read.

Compassionately, The Maven




Originally published: June 12, 2018

AuthorJames A. McLaughlin

AwardsEdgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author

Genres: Thriller, Suspense, Literary fiction

NominationsAnthony Award for Best First Novel

I came across this title as I have many others that have crossed my bookshelf, the free book shelf at my local Starbucks. I frequent that little section, leaving one behind when I pick up something new.

This is the first novel by James McLaughlin, and definitely worth your time. I have been disappointed in many first novels before, but this is a read that is well written with a richly developed story-line. This book would make a great screenplay, it has the right balance of story and action that would appeal to a widely varied audience. It also hints at a bit of the supernatural, leaving one to wonder if he is hallucinating from starvation and psychedelic mushrooms or being drawn into the spell of a one handed skin walker.

The main character, Rice Moore, is complex and believable. He can be best described as a humanitarian and biologist trained in the art of killing, on the run and hiding under an alias and as such trapped between the two worlds of poaching hillbilly bear hunter wannabe bikers and the Mexican drug cartel while working as a caretaker and handyman restoring the lodging on the edge of a family-owned nature preserve deep in the Appalachian Mountains.

Having been raised on a family farm that had a sizable nature preserve on it in the hilly country of Southwest Wisconsin, I can relate to the untouched raw quality of the deepest reaches of that wilderness and the mystery that can be found in the valleys and ravines. Flora and fauna dwell there that are seldom seen outside of those cool, shady locales. When Rice and Sara stray into those forbidden reaches, I feel their wonder as I had as a child.

I was not let down by the ending, either. Instead of being left flat, we are given a worthy ending and closure. Not a fully happy end nor an ironic twist. Each character has his or her place in the close of this tale, right down to Sophie.

If you happen by the shelf at my local Starbucks and see this title still there, pick it up. You will not be disappointed.


Would you like to read along with me?

Click contact if you would like to add a book to my list.

Thank you!

  1. Answering 911 by Caroline Burau
  2. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  3. The Mountain Midwife by Laurie Alice Eakes
  4. Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
  5. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  6. Written in Bones by Paul Bahn
  7. Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris
  8. Night Child by Anna Quinn
  9. Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn
  10. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Today’s Activity

Good day to you, readers!

I want to update you with what is in the works.  I should finish reading The Tao of Pooh tonight and begin writing my review for you.

This morning I had “coffee and conversation” with two budding authors.  It is my hope that they will allow me to read and review their raw manuscripts.  Exciting!

Remember, I will always take your recommendations for books to add to my list.

The Maven

The Zombie Survival Guide

I purchased my copy of The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks at Barnes & Noble, trolling the aisles for funky and interesting titles.  I just can’t pass up quirky books.  You can tell by looking at my bookshelves.  I’ve collected some books that even make me wonder what I was thinking at the time.  Over time I will share some of them with you, reader.

This book by Max Brooks, however, is not one that I regret picking up or ever will.  While the book jacket places The Zombie Survival Guide in the Humor category, it should be in the self-help or how-to section.  This is my second reading of this title.  The Guide is a New York Times Bestseller with over one million copies in print.

Max Brooks is the son of famous filmmaker Mel Brooks and Ann Bancroft.  He also wrote World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War which was turned into a film in 2013.  It is not known to me if this is a complete listing of his written works.

The Zombie Survival Guide can be many different things to a variety of readers.  To a conspiracy theorist, it could resemble a step by step manual on navigating through the coming Zombie Apocalypse and history of the worldwide cover-up by many nations intent on mass destruction.  A city-dwelling retro dressing hipster might view it is a comedic take on the zombie fanboy “Walking Dead” phenomenon.  As for me, a little of both.

As I am an educated and rational socially awkward woman, my personal paranoia feeds into anxiety fueled daydreams of the apocalypse taking out all but the most aggressive and weapon savvy gun show aficionados, leaving me little time for anything but scurrying from one hide-out to another and dodging the “zombies” tottering around in shoes that cost more than my monthly grocery budget, with stylishly coiffed hair and makeup that makes them look like plastic dollies (Oh wait, that’s just a trip to the local shopping center!).  I digress…

I enjoyed this book very much.  It is a thoroughly fleshed out foray into one of our modern fantasies regarding the end of society as we know it. The Zombie Survival Guide gives you the history and science behind the deadliest plague humanity will ever face.

Up next: The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

The Pilot’s Wife


I acquired a copy of The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve from the Little Free Library at my local Starbucks here in Salt Lake City, Utah.  According to the fly page, it originally came from the Bumpers Library, Camp Joseph T. Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas.  It is also stamped “Property of the U.S. Army.”  This copy has not been dog-eared but the pages are aged and yellow.  I love the smell of an aging tome.

I searched for information on the author, and it appears that Anita Shreve has passed into the ether.  She published nineteen works of fiction and two non-fiction.  This particular title was chosen to be in the 1999 Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club.

This is a Contemporary Fiction novel that could narrowly cross over into Romance due to having a romantic subtext to the plot, though it is a rather small carryover.  The author gives much more time to the well developed plot than to the romance for which this reviewer is glad.  Romance is a genre that is not one that I naturally gravitate toward.  The closest I usually stray is Contemporary Fiction and Young Adult.

This book explores the question, how well do you truly know those with which you share your life and your home?  A knock on the door in the small hours of the morning can change your world forever.

The main character, Kathryn, suffers loss and a continuing spiral of mysterious circumstances that takes her halfway around the world where everything she ever knew unraveled like an old sweater.  The entire book builds up a tantalizing tale, but the ending left me a flat.  The story was woven like a fine silk web and then abruptly it was over and there was an afterthought of what seemed like one year later.

As I stated, I did enjoy the book, I just wish there was more meat at the end.

Coming next: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks