Thursday, March 26, 2020

All By Ourselves--With A Terrific Book!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  You’re home, right? Or being really careful? We love you, and are so happy to see you all here every day. Let us know you’re okay, right? And where you are?

And now, I am so pleased to introduce you to someone who is going to be one of your new favorite authors. (Full disclosure: I love this author!)   

The brilliant and authentic and incredibly talented Tessa Wegert, whose debut novel (what a hero she is!) came out in February. A debut author, who should be jet-setting around the country, appearing before adoring throngs and working her way up the charts.

But now, it’s now. But! Here we are, and how lovely to be able to introduce you to Tessa Wegert. This is a FABULOUS book.  And she is quite amazing. And, now that we are al more alone than we have ever been—well, yeah.  It’s a theme.

Isolation

In the midst of this horrible coronavirus outbreak, and at a time when people are practicing social distancing and quarantined in their homes, isolation is on everyone's mind. And since I'm reading more than usual these days (books really do provide both entertainment and much-needed distraction), I got to thinking about the role that isolation plays in so many mysteries and thrillers.

From Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None to Stephen King's The Shining, isolation features in countless novels. You'll often find it woven into plots to create suspense by distancing characters from civilization. There's something unnerving about a story set in a remote location, where protagonists not only face villains head-on, but all alone. When they're isolated from society, help isn't as easy to come by, and characters have to work that much harder to overcome challenges, protect others, and stay alive.

Isolation also creates opportunities to burden our characters with additional phobias, fears, and internal struggles that can trip them up during their hero journey and ultimately increase conflict. Whether a character's confined to a highway rest stop in a blizzard, like in No Exit by Taylor Adams, or stuck on a private island during a nor'easter, as in my debut mystery Death in the Family, suspicion and a sense of foreboding keep readers on tenterhooks. 


I remember the sense of vulnerability I got when reading Ruth Ware's The Turn of the Key, which is set in a smart home in the Scottish Highlands. Left to care for young children in a strange and far-flung place, Ware's character Rowan Caine was fully exposed – and that position came back to haunt her. 

Geographic separation isn't the only type of isolation that factors in thrillers. There's emotional isolation, too. When a character finds themselves deep in the woods or on a private island, for example, they're removed from the comforts of society both physically and emotionally. Cabin fever isn't limited to real life, and it can be just as psychologically crippling in fiction.

Of course, emotional isolation can also exist when a character's living in a bustling city; just take a look at Joe Goldberg from the Caroline Kepnes thriller You. Abused by his father and neglected by his mother, Joe experiences a sense of isolation that ultimately leads him to become an obsessive stalker and serial killer who systematically removes loved ones from his target's life to isolate her

As we try to make the best of our current situation, it can't hurt for writers to think about the value of this literary theme, and pass the time by reading books that incorporate isolation. You'll find a few more of my favorites below.

Which books featuring isolation do you love? Here are mine.  Share your picks Jungle Reds, and stay healthy! 

The Lost Man, by Jane Harper
Broken Harbor, by Tana French
Entry Island, by Peter May
The Hunting Party, by Lucy Foley
The Homecoming, by Andrew Pyper
Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie
Scrublands, by Chris Hammer

HANK: SO many wonderful—and scary-- books. Rachel Howzell Hall’s wonderful THEY ALL FALL DOWN.  THE STAND, of course.  LORD OF THE FLIES.  And Then There Were None. What else, Reds and readers? And have you ever been stuck in a storm? And a copy of  DEATH IN THE FAMILY to one lucky winner!



Tessa Wegert is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Adweek, and The Economist. She grew up in Quebec and now lives with her family in Connecticut. Tessa writes mysteries set in Upstate New York while studying martial arts and dance. DEATH IN THE FAMILY is her first novel.

Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she's taken a job in her fiancé's sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands of Upstate New York. But as a nor'easter bears down on the region, Shana and fellow investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing from a private island. His family is crawling with dark secrets, and Shana's convinced one of them is a killer. As the pressure to solve the case mounts, so do the odds that they'll strike again.



76 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Tessa, on your debut novel . . . it sounds quite intriguing; I’m looking forward to meeting Shana and Tim . . . .
    Books to add to the list: Stephen King’s “The Shining” . . . Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend” . . . Blake Crouch’s “Pines” . . . Louis Sachar’s “Holes” . . . Ruth Ware’s “The Woman in Cabin 10” . . . .

    As for being “stuck” in a storm, only if being housebound while the hurricanes blow through counts . . . .

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    1. Oh all those are wonderful choices! You know, I never read Blake crouch… Should I?

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    2. Thank you, Joan! I love the Wayward Pines series, and absolutely everything by Ruth Ware. Happy reading and stay safe!

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    3. Definitely, Hank...that series has a great Twin Peaks vibe.

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    4. Oh, terrific! On it. Loved Twin Peaks! xoox

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  2. And Then There Were None for sure. That is a masterpiece of a novel. Another novel with isolation as a theme is Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Later in the book there is definitely lots of isolation.

    Congrats on the debut! It certainly sounds intriguing.

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    1. Oh, you are so right! So marvelous of you to mention it… Yes, I realized I was writing a book about two women stuck at home… And I thought well, I should make that but the book is about! I love love love that you mentioned it, thank you!

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    2. Thanks Mark! And Then There Were None is one of my all-time favorites.

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    3. I'm adding Trust Me to my must-read list right now!

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    4. YAY! Eager to hear what you think..

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    5. It’s interesting how we each perceive things . . . I loved “Trust Me,” but didn’t see it as an isolation tale as much as a story of manipulation. No matter how you look at it, though, it’s a great read . . . .

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  3. Congratulations Tessa! This story sounds great. To our isolation list I would add The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Elia McNeal. Ian Rutledge in the Charles Todd series is emotionally isolated by his PTSD and his fear of discovery of it by others. I also think the second Mrs DeWinter in Rebecca was isolated at Manderley by everyone knowing the backstory and scandal but her.
    We’ve sat out hurricanes Ike and Harvey with more company than we’re experiencing now.

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    1. Oh, very good assessment! Isolated by distance and knowledge and grief… Perfect!

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  4. Congratulations, Tessa! The book sounds fabulous! Adding it to my to-buy list!

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  5. Congratulations for Death in the Family. I like stories that take place on islands.
    About isolation, the first that came to mind is Outlander in which Clare is isolated in a strange past world.
    Then I thought Jane Eyre. They are not Mysteries but they fit the isolation theme.

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    1. Definitely outlander, brilliant. Yes, imagine being isolated as the only one from another time… That is quite chilling. We love that show, too!

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    2. Thank you, Danielle! I love the Outlander series too. Have you watched the TV adaptation?

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    3. Yes, we love the TV show...even Jonathan likes it. And it's gorgeous, too.

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  6. Welcome Tessa! I'm not reading scary books right now--reality is bad enough! But your question brought the Jimmy Perez series by Ann Cleeves instantly to mind. They take place on the Shetland Islands which are isolated by definition because of their geography. And the isolation changes everything...

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    1. Oh, yes, exactly! And do you feel isolated and Key West, in real life?

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    2. Thanks Lucy! Yes, Ann Cleeves is a master of mysteries in isolated settings. I know what you mean about scary books right now. Mine's very light on violence -- more Louise Penny than Stephen King. ;) PS I love Key West! How long have you lived there?

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    4. Roberta, I deleted my last comment because I used the phrase "end of the world" when I meant to refer to Key West's "end of the road" status. Wondering how the vibe is there; maybe not too different from when a hurricane is bearing down and evacuation order is in place?

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  7. I've had this book on my radar, gladly adding to the TBR pile, Tessa. Congratulations on your debut! Pat D mentioned the Charles Todd series--A Cold Treachery is a triple whammy in terms of isolation--Ian's emotional state, a remote village location, and set during blizzard conditions. Still my favorite of the Rutledge series.

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    1. I must have missed that one, how did that happen?? Oh, I will look for it instantly!

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    2. Thank you Flora, I can't wait to hear what you think of the book! I'll check out Charles Todd, his series sounds wonderful.

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    3. They really are--it's a mother/son team, and the novels are terrific. I have a huge crush on Rutledge.

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  8. Congratulations on your debut! Creepy families with secrets and islands during storms are always good.

    Social isolation: Eleanor Oliphant and a YA book I re-read once a year, The Giver.
    Physical isolation: Jimmy Perez on the Shetlands, Julia's 2013 release, set during a blizzard in a remote part of the Adirondacks, William Kent Krueger's Iron Lake and Desolation Mountain.

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    1. Oh yes, Margaret--William Kent Krueger--many of his books feature an isolated setting. In the same way that Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak books and Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon books often have extremely remote settings (I haven't recovered from Anna's foray into spelunking).

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    2. Is The GIver Lois Lowry? I love her--but we will have to talk about that book someday.. xoo

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  9. Congratulations, Tessa! I like stories set in an isolated setting. Knowing the protagonist and the killer are confined to the same space just adds to the tension.

    Books on isolation: Now would be a good time NOT to read The Stand!

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    1. Thanks Cathy! I couldn't agree more with your assessment of isolation-related tension. Have you read any of Will Dean's books (Dark Pines, etc.)? I just discovered him, and his first book is set in an isolated spruce forest in Sweden. It's terrific so far.

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    2. Maybe! But I am actually thinking about it..it would be so different to read that now..

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  10. Congratulations on the debut, Tessa! The aforementioned Lord of the Flies definitely comes to mind. As for emotional isolation, I think of Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay. The main character certainly goes the the wringer in that one!

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    1. Thanks Abby! Lord of the Flies was my favorite book as a teen (it's still high on the list).

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    2. Oh, yes,Linwood Barclay! Love him, but I have not read that one. Isn't Lord of the Flies..so disturbing to remember now? At least they didn't fight over toilet paper..

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  11. Tessa, welcome to Jungle Reds! Great theme for a spooky mystery novel. Congratulations on your debut novel.

    the Prisoner in the Castle (Maggie Hope series) by Susan Elia MacNeal and the Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd are excellent examples of isolation, not only geographically but also emotionally.

    Diana

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  12. Congratulations, Tessa! Maybe 30 years ago, while traveling by train from NY to FL I was reading The Stand. First of all I do not recommend that train trip during spring break, a nightmare in itself and I was wishing to be isolated all by myself. But as I was reading people all around me were coughing and sneezing, or so it seemed and my anxiety level was rising the more I read.

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    1. Judi, you made me laugh. I read the Andromeda Strain the very first night in my very first apartment. I read all night, in a cold sweat, until I finished it.

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    2. OH< I so agree! Even before this I worried about that every time I heard about a disease, or when someone coughed. Yeesh.

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  13. Congratulations Tessa. I'm adding your book to my TBR list, but I think I'll read it in the warmth of the summer!
    Lots of stories deal with isolation of one sort or another. First thought is The Count of Monte Cristo. Even his escape was totally claustrophobic. Then Jane Eyre, Rebecca even Wurthering Heights has that gothic feeling of isolation.
    I agree that Julia's Clare lost in a snowstorm (in the wrong shoes) definitely qualifies, Deb's Gemma climbing the TOR to find the pregnant teenager, Louise Penny sending Gamache to a monastery on an island in northern Canada. Oh, my.
    I am often reminded of the Robert Frost poem, Desert Places. We create our own.
    Best of luck with Death in the Family. I look forward to reading it.

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    1. Judy, Louise Penny's The Beautiful Mystery, set in that remote monastery, is one of my favorites of that series.

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    2. Oh, The Count! I will find that on my shelves.. Maybe it's a good movie to watch, too!

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  14. Honestly, I love this genre, and I wish there were more modern examples, so I'm delighted to see everyone's suggestions. Tessa, I'm ordering DEATH IN THE FAMILY today from my local independent bookstore (still mailing out books!) I've been craving another modern "And Then There Were None" mystery since reading, and loving, THE HUNTING PARTY.

    I also suggest THE LAST by Hanna Jameson, which would be perfect for these times: a group of vacationers and convention-goers are trapped (or barricaded) in an isolated Swiss hotel in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war. Then, they find the body of a girl who had been killed before the end of the world. Fascinating stuff.

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  15. This books sounds wonderful! Congratulations, Tessa!
    Isolation. Such a challenge to write.
    Robinson Crusoe, of course. The Martian. We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Jennifer McMahon's Winter People. Room.
    My own Never Tell a Lie, about a pregnant woman who's increasingly isolated until she ends up... having to save herself.
    That's one of the challenges of writing, how the character saves themself.

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  16. Congratulations! Your novel sounds captivating.
    In The Barren Ground, A Gentleman in Moscow, Susan Howatch novels.

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  17. Hi Tessa! Congrats on seeing your book published. All I can say is WOW! I read the synopsis and this book sounds fantastic. I can see why Hank is raving about both you and the book.

    I'm glad to see someone else that loved Chris Hammer's Scrublands. It was one of my favorite books of 2019 and I don't think enough people (at least here in the US) know about it. It was a singularly captivating read for me.

    I can't say that I've ever been stuck somewhere in a storm other than my own house but I'm sure it would be a terrible experience to have to go through.

    I'm at home during this pandemic outbreak since my company is shut down and I'm temporarily laid off. It has given me a lot of free time which I'm trying to use to my advantage, at least a little.

    To avoid becoming a complete couch potato I've made it a point to do SOMETHING each day. A task to complete kind of thing. Today was clean the bathroom day!

    But then there's reading, watching a new-to-me movie (and either raving or complaining about it on Facebook). Plus I have my music articles to write as well. So I'm keeping at least semi-active. I just wish I had the ability to speed read things because I could read so much more and actually make a dent in my TBR pile.

    I'm hoping to be the giveaway winner, but if not the book goes on my to read list and I'm likely going to tweet this article link out to do what little I can to pass the word about DEATH IN THE FAMILY.

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    1. Jay--that's a great plan. Bathroom cleaning is always good! And using your time to the best advantage is so wise!

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    2. Wow, thank you so much, Jay! I completely agree about Scrublands; it's like a hidden gem here in the U.S.

      I'm so sorry to hear about your lay-off. Like Hank said, it's great to maximize this time (music articles? How cool!).

      Best of luck in the giveaway! When you get the chance to read the book, I'd love to hear your thoughts! I'm on social media and easy to reach. Thanks for your help with spreading the word, and take care!

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  18. I love The Stand,it's my all time favorite book. Although it might be scarier to read it now.
    I'm a Minnesotan,so I have been stuck in the house due to blizzard conditions before but it wasn't at all frightening. It usually only lasts a day or two.
    This book sounds very interesting. Can't wait to read it!

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    1. Mine, too! Well, one of them. But way up there. SK is a genus.

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    2. Thank you, I hope you enjoy it! I haven't read The Stand yet, but I do love Stephen King.

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  19. Just staying at home, but that's not much different. We were enjoying our home and retirement anyway. Started to self-isolate a few days before in was mandated. Fortunately I (usually) like my family! And plenty to read. Just so we don't end up "Under the Dome." ;-). We were snowbound often enough growing up in NW Indiana, especially The Big Blizzard of '67. (1967 of course). We had plenty of supplies but my mom got stuck staying with friends a couple of miles away and after 2 days decided she wanted to come home, so my sister and I (both teenagers) walked to escort her home. We were fine but poop mom was very short, and we turned around at one point and didn't see her - she had dropped down in a snowdrift.
    The books sounds great. Going on my TBR list.

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    1. Oh, gosh, you just made me laugh. I hope she was okay!

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    2. She was fine, but didn't laugh like we did . And I just noticed - she was not poop mom, I meant POOR mom!

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    3. Sounds like you're playing it safe, which is so smart. And what a story! Take care and I hope you enjoy the book!

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  20. Congratulations on your debut novel! Adding to my TBR list. I remember as a kid my Dad coming home early from work and saying there was a tornado in the area. I can still remember him holding my Sister and we watched the storm from the front window touch down two miles from your house and it looked like matchsticks flying in the air. It was something I'll never forget.

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    1. Oh, a tornado! Shaking head. I grew up in rural Indiana, and I was terrified of them. The Wizard of Oz made it much worse, too. :-)

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    2. Thanks so much! I can't imagine experiencing a tornado. How terrifying that must have been for you and your family. Stay safe, and take care!

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  21. A most intriguing book. Definitely a page turner and thrilling. Being from the Great White North has introduced me to many conditions. Blizzards, ice storms, no power for a week etc. Books with those stories are gripping but hardly time for reading with 2 grandsons, 8 & 6 to take care of all day everyday.

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    1. Oh, gosh, you are a SAINT! And yes, how often do we give thanks for power? I am actually giving my freezer love pats.

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    2. I've lived through many of those conditions too (I was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Quebec)! I hope you manage to squeeze in some reading time. How lucky those grandchildren are.

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  22. Tessa, Death in the Family sounds like my kind of book, and I'll definitely be reading it. I'll share about it on my FB page and review it for my blog, too. I love isolation stories, and I've read five of the seven on your list. The Lost Man, Broken Harbor, Entry Island, The Hunting Party and Death on the Nile were all great reads and favorites for me.

    Two of my favorite isolation books have been mentioned, The Shining and They All Fall Down. Three other isolation stories I read last year were great reads, too -- Carol Goodman's The Night Visitors, Shari Lapena's An Unwanted Guest, and Susan Elia MacNeal's A Prisoner in the Castle. I'm sure I'll think of more, but I do know that Death in the Family is going to be a future read in this category.

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    1. YAY, Kathy! Tessa, you lucky woman...xoxoxoo What was An Unwanted Guest, again? I love Shari Lapena, and I know I read that... And how about: The Man Who Came to Dinner? :-)

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    2. Thanks Kathy, I hope you love it and would be so grateful for a review! Fun to see that we have similar tastes in books. An Unwanted Guest has been on my TBR list for a long time. I will bump it up! Thanks again and take care!

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  23. Death in the Family is on to my list! I’ve always loved books where characters are isolated in some fashion n. As a kid I liked Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson. Many of the books mentioned here are my favorites— The Last, The Stand, And Then There Were None, The Night Visitors, The Martian. And I’m adding all I haven’t read to my list! This was a good day for the list.

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    1. Yes! A good day for the list! I am so thrilled when it is a good day for anything...xoxoo Love you!

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    2. Thank you, Cindy! Those are all great choices. It's always fun to add some promising titles to our lists!

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  24. Death in the Family. Remote island and storms. S family member or is it members have the possibility of killing again. Okay, you have my attention. Most of the books I thought have been mentioned. Then I thought of Nevada Barr's books. Being a ranger can be isolating depending on the park. The last one has Anna on an island on purpose, to protect her extended family and she is always isolated from her husband. My goal for March is to re-read all of Julia's books in anticipation for April. I see an isolation in Our of the Deep I Cry caused by illness, and bad guys and a rural location for Mrs. Marshall's mother. The outcome of that isolation manifested itself years later.

    As for my own isolation, it's currently only on weekends. I didn't do so go last weekend. My goal for this weekend is to breakdown every box stacked in my bedroom this weekend. I see no reason to save them or even why I thought I should. I also need to try to get laundry done in the complex laundry room while keeping a distance from others.

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    1. Haha, thanks Deana. I'm a sucker for mysteries with those elements, and I'm happy to know others feel the same way. I haven't read Nevada Barr, but I'll check her out. I love a good mystery series. Best of luck on your house projects this weekend, and happy reading!

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